Rachida Dati, ex-protégé of French president Nicolas Sarkozy, caused a huge stir on Thursday when she made an appearance alongside the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) candidate at his second large campaign appearance in Lille, France.
Dati's resuscitation within Sarkozy's entourage, as several French media outlets have called it, is surprising given the fall-out between Dati and Sarkozy in the wake of her resignation from his government in 2009.
French media and politicians wonder whether Dati will be making a lasting come-back in Sarkozy's re-election campaign or whether Lille was just a political stunt.
Nonetheless, Dati seems to have reclaimed her spot as Sarkozy's little soldier, confident as ever in her red booties. On the way to Lille, she sat to Sarkozy's right in the TGV (France's high-speed train), across from former campaign spokesperson, Xavier Bertrand, and the former Minister of Ecology. She also delivered a ten-minute speech at the Lille campaign meeting.
Dati is seen as a popular asset for Sarkozy as he struggles to win the re-election. Relatively well-liked, she even received a standing ovation at the UMP meeting.
I resemble you. Like me, many of you have had courageous parents who have fought to offer their children better lives, Dati said. She continued by praising Sarkozy, Nicolas Sarkozy has restored in five years' time what the left has destroyed in twenty years' time.
However, Sarkozy has made it clear that Dati does not hold any official function in his campaign.
As long as she wants to help me, I don't see why she wouldn't have a post to help me out. I am happy that she is here, but there is no job, he said during his trip up north on Thursday.
Ever loyal, Dati seems content for now to simply accompany the president on his campaign.
The sudden presence of Dati in Sarkozy's campaign may also be a cycnical ploy to attract some votes from France's large Muslim population -- many of whom have been greatly alienated by Sarkozy's views on immigration and pandering to the right-wing.
Respected for being the first Muslim woman to hold a major government post but notorious for her flashy fashion and sharp-tongue, Dati quickly climbed to the top, inseparable from the French President and his former wife, Cecilia Attias.
Dati was appointed Minister of Justice in 2007 but vacated her position two years later amidst a wave of criticism over various issues.
She remains the mayor of Paris' 7th arrondissement, appointed by Sarkozy in 2008 and a member of the European Parliament.