A file photo of Segolene Royal
France's First Lady set the country's Twitter feeds alight on Tuesday with an encouraging message to a parliamentary election rival of Segolene Royal, the Socialist politician who lived before her with President Francois Hollande.
In a message on the popular microblog, Valerie Trierweiler told Olivier Falorni, a left-winger who has defied Socialist Party orders to step aside in favour of Royal in a constituency in western France, to "Take heart".
The tweet praised Mr Falorni, who is being shunned by Segolene's backers, saying he had spent years working with the people of the constituency where he is running, the western seaside town of La Rochelle.
Mr Hollande's Socialist Party ditched Mr Falorni earlier this year over his refusal to pull out of that contest, a race which could prevent Royal from holding a frontline political post if she fails to win the National Assembly seat.
Ms Royal, the mother of Hollande's four children, ran unsuccessfully for president in 2007, the year she announced that she and Mr Hollande were splitting after some 25 years together.
Last year, she cried after being knocked out early in the Socialist primary for this year's presidential election that Mr Hollande went on to win on May 6.
Ms Trierweiler, 47, a twice-divorced journalist, has been living with Mr Hollande for several years, after growing close to him towards the end of his relationship with Ms Royal.
Mr Hollande, 57, never married Ms Royal and has not indicated that he will marry Ms Trierweiler to formalise her role as First Lady.
Ms Trierweiler and her staff did not respond to a Reuters query regarding the tweet, but French media said she stood by it.
Mr Falorni, who came second to Ms Royal in a first-round vote on Sunday and hopes to beat her in a runoff on June 17, did respond to the tweet though, saying: "This is a sweet surprise for me."
© Thomson Reuters 2012