/ 7 January 2008

French president may marry ex-model

First it was Disneyland, then love on the Nile, now it’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s starry settings for his showbiz romance with the ex-model Carla Bruni continued this weekend when the couple rode camels in Jordan and visited Petra as a French newspaper reported that they are to marry next month.

Le Journal du Dimanche, owned by one of Sarkozy’s closest friends, announced on its front page that the president and the model-turned-pop star would marry on February 8 or 9 — barely three months after they first met in November.

The news came as the president slumped to his lowest poll ratings since his election last year. Only 48% of French voters now trust Sarkozy. This is partly because of the flagging economy and families’ continuing difficulties to make ends meet. But the public is also irritated by the ”bling-bling” president deliberately playing out his soap-opera love life as if he was a Hollywood star.

Sarkozy reluctantly divorced his second wife Cécilia in October and weeks later at a dinner party met Bruni, an Italian tyre heiress whose previous conquests include Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton and a former French socialist prime minister.

Before appearing in public with Bruni, Sarkozy reportedly commissioned private polls and decided the French would be impressed with his glamorous catch. Their first public date was to watch the Mickey Mouse parade at Disneyland Paris, slammed by critics as naff. Then they jetted to Egypt for Christmas, borrowing the private jet of one of France’s richest tycoons. On the banks of the Nile, the couple canoodled for the cameras.

This weekend Sarkozy led Bruni around one of the main temples in Petra, which featured in the Hollywood film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

His spokesperson refused to confirm or deny reports of the ”imminent marriage” but Sarkozy is to give a press conference at the Élysée on Tuesday. If he does marry in February, it will bring a new meaning to the president’s nickname Speedy Sarko.

Bruni’s mother has told the Italian press: ”The president asked me for her hand. I said: ‘Monsieur le Président, I have no reason to object’!”

Sarkozy’s deliberate blurring of France’s once sacred boundaries between public and private life has infuriated his political opponents. The Socialist leader François Hollande accused him of ”narcissism”.

TV psychiatrists have pointed out that Bruni bears a striking resemblance to Sarkozy’s ex-wife. Indeed, Sarkozy and Bruni’s trip to Jordan this weekend had a strange symmetry: it was in Jordan that Cécilia first appeared with her lover after leaving Sarkozy in 2005.

The Sarkozy-Bruni love affair became public in December when the president needed to distract attention from a hugely unpopular Paris visit by Libya’s Moammar Gadaffi. But Stéphane Rozès, head of the CSA polling institute which carried out the latest opinion poll, told Le Parisien that older voters appeared to have been turned off by coverage of Sarkozy’s love-life.

”The heavy media exposure of the president’s personal life, which affects the image of the president’s role, clearly offends traditional sections of government supporters,” he said. ”The fall [of support] among older people, who we know are attached to traditional values, is significant from this point of view.” – Guardian Unlimited Â