Secret's out: Sarkozy to campaign with baby on the way
The worst kept secret in French politics was finally revealed Tuesday: President Nicolas Sarkozy will run for re-election alongside a pregnant Carla Bruni.
While the Elysee Palace is still refusing to comment on the First Couple's private life, the president's father Pal Sarkozy spilled the beans to Germany's mass market daily Bild.
"I'm glad to be having a grandchild," the 82-year-old reportedly said, adding that neither the president nor his wife "want to know the sex of the child, but I'm sure it's a girl who'll be as beautiful as Carla."
Contacted by AFP, the Hungarian-born painter refused to comment or confirm his statement, but in any case Bruni's pregnancy has become an open secret.
When the 43-year-old singer appeared on television Monday to promote her adult literacy charity her interviewer said: "I know you don't like people talking about your private life, but I just want to congratulate you."
Bruni giggled playfully and replied: "I congratulate you too."
The elegant former model has not been seen for a while in figure-hugging fashion, and last month told well-wishers at a meeting arranged by the newspaper Le Parisien that her "lips were sealed".
It is not clear how long Bruni has been pregnant, but she will presumably give birth during the presidential campaign, which culminates in two rounds of voting on April 22 and May 6 next year.
Sarkozy has not formally confirmed he will run for a second term but has made his intentions abundantly clear, having already adopted a weekly schedule of visits and launched a defence of his record in office.
He is nevertheless trailing in the opinion polls, with some survey groups citing an approval rating of only 20 percent, the lowest level of any incumbent at this stage of the electoral cycle.
Bruni's happy news may give him a baby bump, particularly if it gives the centre-right leader the opportunity to soften his aggressive image and appear in a more tender role as a national father figure.
Certainly, his situation could hardly contrast more sharply with that of the man opinion polls once said would beat him soundly in next year's vote: IMF chief and Socialist heavyweight Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Once the frontrunner, Strauss-Kahn's political career is generally assumed to be over following his arrest in New York on a charge of the attempted rape of a hotel chambermaid.
On the economy, Sarkozy will take comfort in better than expected growth figures for the first three months of the year, which suggest that France is on track for a shallow but solid economic recovery just in time for the vote.
Bruni already has a 10-year-old son, Aurelien, from an earlier relationship with the philosopher Raphael Enthoven, and 56-year-old Sarkozy has three sons aged 14, 25 and 26 from two previous marriages.
If the pregnancy comes to term, Sarkozy will be the first French president to become a father while in office, although Foreign Minister Alain Juppe had his third child in 1995 when he was prime minister.
Across the Channel, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha had their fourth child last year, just 10 years after Downing Street welcomed his predecessor Tony Blair's son Leo.
© 2011 AFP