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Last Updated: Monday, 4 February 2008, 17:26 GMT
Newly-wed Sarkozy woos nation
By Emma Jane Kirby
BBC News, Paris

French President Nicolas Sarkozy with Arcelor Mittal workers at Gandrange, 4 Feb 08
Mr Sarkozy must prove romance has not distracted him from the job
"There's no better place to spend my honeymoon than here!" grinned the newly-wed French president, as he addressed steel workers at Arcelor Mittal in Gandrange.

If he expected applause and a congratulatory cheer he did not get it. The subsequent booing suggested the employees, whose jobs are under threat, had a lot more on their mind than Nicolas Sarkozy's private life.

A new poll, released on Sunday, indicated that the president's popularity ratings had plummeted.

The LH2 poll for the left-leaning Liberation newspaper said 55% of those surveyed had a negative opinion of President Sarkozy, with just 41% thinking he was doing a good job - that is a 13% drop from a month ago.

Respondents said one of the main reasons they had lost confidence in Mr Sarkozy was because he seemed to spend more time worrying about his personal life than he did the concerns of France.

The front cover of Liberation today had a cartoon of Mr Sarkozy with his arm around Carla Bruni with the headline "The French people and Sarkozy - The Divorce".

Now that the fairy-tale romance of the president and the pop star has reached a "happily ever after" conclusion, France will be looking for a lot more from Nicolas Sarkozy than just a few glossy photos of his first kiss with the new First Lady.

The country remains in poor economic health, with very little growth and relatively high unemployment, while the daily cost of living continues to rise.

'On the ball'

So what became of the hard-nosed reformer I followed during the election campaign, who promised France an economic revolution? Has love turned him soppy?

Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni hold hands (file pic)

That is not an impression Nicolas Sarkozy wants to give.

It is quite deliberate that the newly-weds did not take a honeymoon. The French president is keen to show his country that only a day after his wedding, he has already got his eye on the ball again.

Two National Assembly by-elections were held in the Paris region on Sunday and Sarkozy's right-wing UMP party lost one of the seats to the Socialists.

With municipal elections coming up next month, he knows he cannot afford to give much ground.

Carla's new role

But will Carla Bruni prove to be an asset or a distraction to the president?

She does after all have a colourful past, with a string of high-profile ex-boyfriends, who include rock stars Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, and she has given interviews in which she has declared she believes in polygamy.

Later this month the singer is due to release another album - it will be the first time that France will have had a First Lady featuring in the pop charts.

She may be unorthodox compared to previous presidents' wives, but Colombe Pringle from the celebrity magazine Point de Vue believes she will make France proud.

"Carla knows what the job is going to be, maybe she doesn't know all about it, maybe she doesn't measure that it's a difficult one and that it's going to ask a lot of her personal time, but at least she accepts it.

"I mean, when she says yes to the president, she says yes to France."

Ex-model and singer Carla Bruni is used to being in the spotlight. But if she wants to help her husband's career, the new Mrs Sarkozy must be prepared to take a back seat.

SEE ALSO
Profile: Carla Bruni
15 Jan 08 |  Europe
Sarkozy romance sparks furore
07 Jan 08 |  Europe
Profile: Nicolas Sarkozy
16 May 07 |  Europe

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