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the secretary general of the Elysée, a very powerful man in the shadows


For the general public who distractedly watches the news on television, he is the man on the porch, the one who, after a presidential election, lists the names and titles of the newly appointed members of the government. Impassive. However, behind this discretion, imposed by protocol, hides a man (never a woman) with unsuspected powers: the secretary general of the Elysée.

Seven of them, out of the twelve who have worked since 1978, have agreed to lift the veil on the reality of their duties. At the start of this election year, their testimonies are proving to be thrilling, both at the political level – while some stories are similar to scenes from a spy film – and at the psychological level, emphasizing everyone’s ability to manage, or not, its power.

omnipotence of the post

In chronological order: Jacques Wahl, « SG » under « VGE » (Valéry Giscard d’Estaing) from 1978 to 1981; Jean-Louis Bianco, the youngest in this position under the Vand, chosen at the age of 39 by François Mitterrand to succeed Pierre Bérégovoy, from 1982 to 1991; Hubert Védrine (Mitterrand), from 1991 to 1995; Frédéric Salat-Baroux, from 2005 to 2007 (at the end of Jacques Chirac’s mandate); Claude Guéant, from 2007 to 2011, under Nicolas Sarkozy; Pierre-René Lemas, from 2012 to 2014, then Jean-Pierre Jouyet, from 2014 to 2017, under François Hollande.

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Surprisingly, the powers of the Secretary General of the Presidency of the Republic are not fixed by any official text. They vary according to the presidents, with the only constant being a “unwavering trust” between the two men. As the authors recalled, when the film was released: “He is the only collaborator of the President of the Republic who does not have the right to betray. » As one might expect, none of the seven “SGs” interviewed will reveal any state secrets here. And Alexis Kohler, in office since 2017, is absent.

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“When you look above you, you only have the president. » In one sentence, Pierre-René Lemas sums up the omnipotence of the position. But everyone has their preferences. For Jean-Pierre Jouyet,  » what [l]‘has always been passionate about, these are the nominations’, like that of Emmanuel Macron, its deputy secretary general, whom he will help to put into orbit. As guardians of the president’s private life, Jean-Louis Bianco and Hubert Védrine had to deal with his hidden daughter (« Mitterrand asked me to buy him toys », says the second) and his illness.

Some files concern defense secrecy or business. Jean-Pierre Jouyet remains smiling to evoke the « fault » which almost cost him his job, after having affirmed to the World, on September 20, 2014, that Prime Minister François Fillon had asked him to « hit hard and fast » against Nicolas Sarkozy by accelerating the legal proceedings against him in order to prevent him from  » to recover  » in 2017.

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Claude Guéant seems to be aware of the superpowers granted to him by Nicolas Sarkozy by placing him at the head of special operations – including the rescue of five Bulgarian nurses detained in 2007 by Gaddafi. At the time of filming, he remains proud and faithful. While sentenced in 2017 to two years in prison, including one firm, for complicity in embezzlement of public funds and concealment in the case of cash bonuses, he has been imprisoned since December 13, 2021 at Health.

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The President’s Man, by Joseph Beauregard and Vincent Martigny (Fr., 2020, 60 min). Rebroadcast on 16 at 12:50 p.m.; in replay from the 17th on

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