During more than forty years of companionship, she will have been the alter ego, the confidante, the inspirer, the trusted wife of François Bayrou, the president of the Modem. He and Marielle de Sarnez formed an unwavering political couple, who have always believed in their star, resolutely set the course towards overcoming the left-right divide, resisted contrary winds, faced storms, without ever breaking down on the reefs of chess. when others, many others, had left the ship. Marielle de Sarnez died Wednesday January 13 in Paris, at the age of 69, struck down by a devastating leukemia. François Bayrou announced his death to Agence France-Presse (AFP), as well as in a tweet.
Coming from a family of the nobility of the Empire, educated in the cult of aristocratic rigor and Gaullism by a resistant father, Olivier de Sarnez, who was chief of staff to the Minister of the Interior Roger Frey from 1961 to 1967, and a mother who, in the time of the General, had her entry to the Elysée Palace to make floral decorations, the young Marielle, born March 27, 1951 in Paris, has a desire for the open sea. At 18, after having taken in May-68, according to him, “A bath of civic engagement and emancipation” in the student and high school movement, she barely got her baccalaureate in her pocket. To studies she prefers independence and odd jobs.
While she was employed as a saleswoman, Ladislas Poniatowski, the son of the co-founder, with Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, of the Independent Republicans (RI), offered her, in 1973, a position of part-time secretary at the Jeunes RI . There she meets Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Dominique Bussereau, the current president of the Assembly of the departments of France, the ex-keeper of the seals Pascal Clément – who died on June 21, 2020 -, the flower of young Giscardiens.
Her effectiveness was quickly spotted: she climbed the ranks and joined the Giscard campaign team. “At the time, it corresponded quite well to a kind of modernity …” for a unconventional right-wing girl, she says. Giscard elected, the youngster quickly turns to the bar on the right. When, on May 10, 1981, the hour struck for the alternation with the election of François Mitterrand, “I was sad on a personal level, but it was finally something welcome”, she confided to World, a few decades later.
This Giscardian period also dates the decisive meeting with François Bayrou. She knew how to prove, she, the “aristo” without academic background, of his talents as an organizer, he, the aggregate of letters with a romantic temperament, of his beautiful pen. They are the same age, close to two months, deep affinities – they already dream of a strong center, freed from the tutelage of the right -, anchored European convictions … Their paths, therefore, will not be separated.
When, in 1989, François Bayrou, was elected delegate general and then president of the Union for French Democracy (UDF), Marielle de Sarnez became his deputy. She will also accompany him, as director of the cabinet, at the Ministry of National Education when he was appointed Minister by Edouard Balladur, in 1993. “I who only have the bac!” “, she blurted out in a portrait that we dedicated to her in 2007.
2007: the year in which François Bayrou could for a time glimpse the hope of participating in the second round of the presidential election. But that year, despite a campaign in which Marielle de Sarnez was the linchpin, omnipresent, the centrist leader fails at the gates of the second round, which will pit Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal.
“She is me, and me is her”
The between-two-round debate is heartbreaking for the centrist candidate who would have liked so much to be there, convinced that he would have won – which is likely. But, before competing for the supreme office, you must first qualify for the second round. At the end of the night, he confesses to the World that he will not vote Nicolas Sarkozy.
For the first time, Marielle de Sarnez herself is taken aback. However, this declaration will be decisive for the future of the movement chaired by François Bayrou, which in the wake of the presidential election becomes the Modem and has finally succeeded, although weakened, in breaking ties with the dominant party of the right, the ‘UMP, since become the Republicans, which will overwhelm it with its vindictiveness.
A dearly acquired independence. Many ex-centrists rallied to the right – before, for some of them, to find the tracks of the center when the tide has turned – to accuse Marielle de Sarnez of having created a vacuum around the leader of the current centrist. Capable as much of biting reflections as of thunderous bursts of laughter, demanding, even authoritarian, skilful negotiator, this tall, slender blonde with an aquiline face and a deep blue gaze will have been, throughout François Bayrou’s career, more than his right arm, his double, endowed with a keen political sense: “Her, it’s me and me, it’s her”, retorted the mayor of Pau to those who tried to introduce a wedge between them.
Victory by proxy
From 1999 to 2017, she sat in the European Parliament, true to her European convictions. She was in the forefront during the “orange revolution” of autumn 2004 in Ukraine, from which she came back with the idea of making orange the color of Modem. After three presidential campaigns ended in the failure of the centrist candidate, François Bayrou, in consultation with his closest, including obviously Marielle de Sarnez, decides to give up the race for the presidency to support Emmanuel Macron. What he failed to do is the latter who will, shattering the lines of the right and the left. A victory by proxy, in a way.
May 7, 2017: Emmanuel Macron is elected President of the Republic. May 17: François Bayrou is appointed Minister of Justice, Marielle de Sarnez Minister of European Affairs. Barely a month later, because of the affair of the MoDem parliamentary assistants in the European Parliament, they were both forced to resign. Marielle de Sarnez, elected on June 18 deputy of the 11e constituency of Paris, regained its seat at the Palais-Bourbon and was elected president of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly. The dazzling illness took her away. It is one of the pillars of the centrist house which has collapsed.
Marielle de Sarnez in a few dates
March 27, 1951 Born in Paris
1973 Hired by the Young Giscardiens, she met François Bayrou
2002 Leads François Bayrou’s presidential campaign (6.84%), like the following two, in 2007 (18.57%) and in 2012 (9.13%)
2017 President of the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee
January 13, 2021 Death in Paris