French indifferent to Sarkozy divorce
Peter O'Neil, CanWest Europe , CanWest News ServicePublished: Friday, October 19, 2007
PARIS -- France is giving President Nicolas Sarkozy's marriage collapse a Gallic shrug.
A new poll, released on the same day that Cecilia Sarkozy's first public statements on the pending divorce were published, indicates that four of five French citizens consider the event unimportant.
An even higher margin, 92 per cent, said the news had no bearing on their opinion of their president, according to the survey of 806 adults conducted by the polling firm CSA.
Cecilia Sarkozy, in an interview published Thursday in L'Est Republican, spoke openly about her 2005 affair that led to a temporary breakup with Sarkozy.
"I met someone, I fell in love, I left" the marriage, she said.
While some media have speculated that she returned to Sarkozy last year just to help him prepare for the 2007 election race, she said the decision was based on a desire to try to repair her marriage, which had resulted in one son. Both Sarkozys had been previously married and each had two children.
She acknowledged her uneasiness in the public role, in which she frequently looked uncomfortable during her husband's awkward attempts to show physical affection towards her in front of TV cameras.
"We tried everything, I tried everything, but it just wasn't possible anymore ... Public life doesn't suit me," said Sarkozy, who posed for a photo spread in the glossy Paris Match magazine that is owned by one of the president's many powerful friends in the business community.
"I am someone who likes to be in the shadows, who likes serenity, tranquility."
But she also acknowledged that the split wasn't just about an aversion to public life.
"What happened to me has happened to millions of people: one day you no longer have your place in the (relationship)," she said.
"It's no longer the essential thing in your life. It no longer works. The reasons are inexplicable, it happens to lots of people. It happened to us."
One analyst said there's no reason to be surprised by the poll results even though the foreign media, and increasingly French publications, have treated the marriage collapse as a major event.
On Thursday, for instance, the left-wing tabloid Liberation published a front-page photo of Sarkozy with a giant headline, in English, labeling her a "Desperate Housewife."
"Divorce in France is very common, especially in the world of politics," said Mariette Sineau, a research director at the Centre for Political Research at Sciences Po.
"So I'm not surprised by the cool French reaction," she told CanWest.
Le Parisien reported that the couple's son, 10, will live with Cecilia Sarkozy although the president will have easy access.