PARIS -- Ever since French President Nicolas Sarkozy took himself off his country’s most-eligible-bachelor list by publicly acknowledging his affair with supermodel-turned-pop-musician Carla Bruni during a romantic trip to Euro Disney, he’s run into trouble.
His ratings have dipped below 50% for the first time. Older French citizens don’t find the public spectacle of their leader in love very amusing. Abroad, Egyptian lawmakers were so exercised over the prospect of the French head of state sharing a bed with his girlfriend that several vented their disapproval on the floor of the parliament.
Likewise, India is all in a quandary over how to handle protocol during Sarkozy’s impending visit to the subcontinent as the guest of honor at the country’s Republic Day celebrations on January 26. Should the First Girlfriend have her own motorcade, as a first lady would? Meanwhile, the same hard-right Hindu groups that protest Valentine’s Day as a decadent Western holiday have warned that if Sarkozy arrives with his girlfriend in tow, they’ll be out in the streets to welcome him.
This controversy has threatened to cast a pall over a much-heralded summit between two of the world’s great democracies. With lucrative deals at stake for the big-ticket products that drive the French economy – military hardware, nuclear power plants, and Airbus planes – France has a strong interest in a successful summit in India.