While his wife, Carla Bruni, recovers after giving birth to their first child in a private Paris clinic, President Sarkozy is unlikely to take his statutory paternity lpleeave or slow down his working life.

"/> While his wife, Carla Bruni, recovers after giving birth to their first child in a private Paris clinic, President Sarkozy is unlikely to take his statutory paternity lpleeave or slow down his working life.

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CARLA BRUNI

Sarkozy ‘unlikely’ to take paternity leave

While his wife, Carla Bruni, recovers after giving birth to their first child in a private Paris clinic, President Sarkozy is unlikely to take his statutory paternity lpleeave or slow down his working life.

New fathers in France are allowed eleven days of paternity leave by law, increasing to 18 days for multiple births.

During the recent elections to choose a Socialist nominee for the 2012 presidential elections, one of the candidates, Ségolène Royal, proposed giving Sarkozy “paternity leave of five years.”

It is unlikely the president will take any days off. He has a packed agenda over the coming days and weeks. On Wednesday, he left his wife in the La Muette clinic and flew to Frankfurt to meet German chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss a deal to save the euro.

He will also attend a summit on Sunday in Brussels which is planned to adopt a comprehensive deal to solve the ongoing sovereign debt crisis.

His reluctance to take the time off may not be only due to a busy schedule, but also a macho political culture in France.

According to sociologist Christine Castelain-Meunier, quoted in Thursday’s Parisien newspaper, the reluctance to take paternity leave is common in the political classes.

“Since it was created in 2002, no French male politician of any note has publicly taken his paternity leave,” she said. “Perhaps some have taken it but not wanted to be blacklisted for it.”

Senior politicians in other countries have been more willing to take their allotted leave. Prime Minister David Cameron took two weeks of paternity leave when his wife, Samantha, gave birth in 2010, as did his rival, opposition leader Ed Milliband. 

In Norway, the minister of children, equality and social cohesion took a full sixteen weeks of paternity leave. 

Franck Louvrier, one of the president’s advisers, told the newspaper that time off was highly unlikely.

“There is one person who is exempt from parental leave and that’s the head of state,” he said. 

Other new fathers in France are more willing to take advantage of the time off with two-thirds taking full paternity leave.

Employers’ union, Medef, has called for parternity leave to become obligatory.

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NICOLAS SARKOZY

Leaders Sarkozy and Juppé stumble in race for Elysée

Right-wing candidates for the French presidential election face off in the first round of a US-style primary on Sunday with former president Nicolas Sarkozy and ex-prime minister Alain Juppe fighting to avoid being knocked out by an outsider.

Leaders Sarkozy and Juppé stumble in race for Elysée
Alain Juppé and Nicolas Sarkozy. Photo: AFP

In a contest overshadowed by the election of Donald Trump in the United States, support for the early favourite Juppe has slipped and Francois Fillon, who served as prime minister under Sarkozy, has risen fast.

The right-wing nominating contest is crucial because with the French left divided, the winner is expected to go on to take the presidency in May, beating far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the runoff.

Juppe, 71, entered the two-month-long contest with polls showing him to be France's most popular politician, but his approach of playing the moderate against the fiery Sarkozy and the conservative Fillon appears to be backfiring.

Most polls now show Juppe and Sarkozy are neck-and-neck at around 30 percent, with Fillon close behind after making striking progress in recent weeks.

The two winners on Sunday will go through to the second round run-off a week later.

Two becomes three

“We were expecting a duel but in the end a three-way contest has emerged,” political scientist Jerome Jaffre said in Le Figaro newspaper on Thursday.

Many have noted that 62-year-old Fillon's rise had coincided with the publication of his latest book entitled “Beating Islamic totalitarianism”.

An often confused final TV debate of the seven candidates on Thursday offered few clues about the possible outcome, although viewers polled afterwards said Fillon had performed the strongest.

Sparks flew when Sarkozy was asked about fresh claims that he received millions in funding from the late Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi towards his 2007 campaign.

Sarkozy called the question “disgraceful” and refused to answer.

Turning to the Trump effect, the former president said a more isolationist America created “a fantastic opportunity for France and Europe to re-establish a leadership role” on issues including border security and the reform of the UN Security Council.

“The next five years will mark the return of France and Europe to the international scene. America won't be there to put us in the shade,” he said.

Juppe meanwhile said the Trump-era heralded a triple “shock” — in the areas of trade, defence and the environment.

A return to protectionism would be “a tremendous regression”, Juppe said, while warning Europe against being “naive” in its dealings with the United States.

The three leading candidates have similar programmes, underpinned by pledges to reinforce domestic security in a country still under a state of emergency following a series of jihadist attacks.

They also share a desire to reinforce European borders and reduce immigration, while tax cuts also loom large.

The choice will come down to style.

Sarkozy has emphasised his tough-guy credentials, saying it makes him a better choice to handle Trump than the mild-mannered Juppe.

Fillon, who is popular in the business world, has promised “radical” economic measures but is the most conservative of the three on social issues.

Another unknown factor in Sunday's first round is the number of left-wing voters prepared to pay two euros and sign a declaration that they subscribe to “the values of the centre and the right” to vote in the right-wing primary.

Those who do are expected to vote against 61-year-old Sarkozy, who remains a highly divisive figure in France four years after he left office.

When the right-wing candidate is chosen on November 27, it is expected to trigger an announcement from deeply unpopular Socialist President Francois Hollande on whether he intends to bid for re-election.

On Wednesday, Hollande's former economy minister Emmanuel Macron announced he would stand as an independent.

by AFP's Guy Jackson

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