Sarkozy show of unity backfires
PRESIDENT Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni put on a show of unity yesterday, following rumours of infidelities, as they arrived together to vote in regional elections.
Official results last night indicated that the Socialist-led left had defeated Sarkozy's conservative party in the first round of elections - a result widely seen as a referendum on the president. It is the last nationwide vote before presidential and parliamentary elections which are due in 2012, and the first since the recession pushed the jobless rate up to three million -- the worst in a decade.
The Socialists are set to retain the 20 out of 22 regions in mainland France, plus Corsica, that they won in the last vote in 2004, and possibly clinch a 'grand slam' in the second round on March 21.
Although one poll predicted that the Socialists would clinch 31pc of the vote in round one -- just two points more than the the conservatives -- they are expected to wipe the floor in the run-off by joining forces with third-placed Europe Ecologie, which is a growing Green force in French politics.
As he faced a political beating, the French president was also enduring a personal crisis, following rumours that his two-year marriage to former model Ms Bruni was in trouble.
The pair arrived to cast their ballots in a Paris school, but in a deeply unfortunate coincidence, Ms Bruni was photographed standing under a poster of Benjamin Biolay, the French singer with whom it was rumoured last week that she was having an affair.
Mr Sarkozy has dismissed the rumour of her infidelity -- along with another that he was having an affair with his ecology minister, Chantal Jouanno -- as "idiotic". (© Daily Telegraph, London)