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Last Updated: Monday, 7 January 2008, 15:45 GMT
Sarkozy romance sparks furore
By Emma Jane Kirby
BBC News, Paris

President Nicolas Sarkozy with Carla Bruni and her son Aurelien Enthoven in Jordan
Mr Sarkozy toured Jordan with Carla Bruni and her son Aurelien Enthoven
French media reports suggest that President Nicolas Sarkozy is to marry his girlfriend, the former model Carla Bruni, on 9 February - but criticism surrounds the whirlwind, high-profile romance.

The French newspapers and talk shows are full of the "Will they, won't they?" question.

Did he really give her a pink, diamond, heart-shaped engagement ring in Egypt? Has he really set 9 February as the date?

It is almost as if they were talking about a pop star or a French footballer, but the man in question is no ordinary celebrity - he is the president of France.

He might view his relationship with singer and former model Carla Bruni as a Disney-style whirlwind romance, but many French people increasingly see it as impulsive, flashy, vulgar and most importantly, distracting.

"We didn't elect a rock star" snaps the regional paper Nice Matin, in response to more glossy photographs of the jean-clad president and his girlfriend in Jordan.

The Alsace agrees: "We don't need this glitz - we need him to give us economic results", it admonishes.

An opinion poll in the newspaper Le Parisien suggests the president has suffered a seven-point drop in his approval ratings - only 48% of French people now say they have confidence in their leader, giving him his lowest score since his election last May.

Glare of publicity

Much of France's media puts the blame squarely on the over-exposure of his personal life.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and girlfriend Carla Bruni in Egypt, 30 Dec 07
The paparazzi were never far from the couple in Egypt
Editorials accuse him of forgetting election promises such as bringing down the high cost of living and instead focusing his energy on romance.

Even right-leaning papers like Le Figaro, which is generally supportive of the president, has written waspish comments, complaining that "while a barrel of petrol flirts with the hundred dollar mark so Nicolas Sarkozy flirts with Carla Bruni".

The Elysee Palace has declined to comment on rumours that the pair are due to marry next month. But such impetuosity could further undermine public confidence in the man that many here already accuse of being too impulsive and pig-headed in his political decisions.

Mr Sarkozy's presidency has been marked by the pipolisation - the popularisation - of politics. His face has already been on the front page of the celebrity-hungry Paris Match magazine six times since he was elected.

Privacy rule

But France is a country which has no tradition of turning politicians into stars.

Towards the end of his presidency, Francois Mitterrand was famously asked by an excited journalist about his mistress and the existence of his illegitimate daughter.

Et alors? he responded - "So?" The scoop was knocked stone dead.

Politicians' private lives were simply not a story - until Nicolas Sarkozy.

He may be an expert at manipulating the media but there is a definite sense here that the French feel they have now had a little too much information.

With unemployment still high, economic growth slow and the state coffers very much in the red, the French need more than a fairy-tale wedding. Marriage may well be on the cards for the leader of the Fifth Republic, but he can kiss his political honeymoon goodbye.

Speculation about Nicolas Sarkozy marrying a model

Profile: Nicolas Sarkozy
16 May 07 |  Europe
Profile: Cecilia Sarkozy
17 Oct 07 |  Europe

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