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French voted with passion

Only in France. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the superstar model-turned-songstress with a freewheeling lifestyle, now hands the job of first lady to a twice-divorced journalist who's the first presidential partner to enter the Elysee Palace without a ring on her finger.

And as Valerie Trierweiler prepares for her new role alongside President-elect Francois Hollande, in the wings is the woman whose man she stole -- Segolene Royal, his onetime life partner, mother of Hollande's four children and a former presidential candidate now seeking political power.

Intrigue, love lost, love found and power struggles accompanied the new first couple on their journey to the presidency, which Hollande takes over from Nicolas Sarkozy on May 15.

"Valerie is perfect. She's so French," Paris-based fashion writer Rebecca Voight insisted.

Elegant and intelligent, Trierweiler, who has three teenage sons from her previous marriage to a colleague at the magazine Paris Match, is 10 years younger than the 57-year-old Hollande. She met Hollande years ago while covering the Socialist Party, which he headed for 11 years until 2008.

Their relationship flowered starting in 2005 as Hollande's then-partner Royal was beginning to prepare her own presidential candidacy.

Hollande and Royal maintained a pact of silence about their crumbling relationship -- broken only after she lost to Sarkozy in 2007. Royal then announced that she had asked Hollande to leave their family home.

Royal, who soldiered through Hollande's presidential campaign with occasional appearances, now wants a piece of the political pie -- as speaker of the lower house of parliament should the Socialists win June legislative elections.

As for Trierweiler, she cheered Hollande on at rallies but also kept an office at the Socialists' campaign headquarters, assuring she was never far from earshot.

And on Tuesday, she let journalists waiting outside the couple's Paris apartment know who's in charge with a Tweet: "I thank my colleagues for respecting our private life and that of our neighbors. Please don't camp in front of our home."