Sarkozy vows to pursue reforms despite election losses

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to press on with his reform programme in his first public comments since his right-wing party suffered big losses

   PETIT BORNAND, France, March 19, 2008 - French President Nicolas
Sarkozy vowed Tuesday to press on with his reform programme in his first
public comments since his right-wing party suffered big losses in local
   "What is certain, is that I will take a certain number of initiatives to
continue making the changes that our country needs," Sarkozy said, during a
visit to a site of the French Resistance in the Alps.
   "Those are the policies I was elected to put in place, and those are the
ones I will carry out," Sarkozy told a public gathering in the town of Petit
Bornand, on the Glieres plateau.
   "This is not about ideology. It is not about politics. It is not even about
left and right. It is a simple question of common sense."
   Sarkozy did not comment directly on the outcome of last weekend's
elections, cast as a referendum on his first 10 months in office, in which the
opposition Socialists took key cities from the right, including Toulouse and
   But he said economic difficulties -- the soaring prices of oil and raw
materials, a strong euro, turmoil on world financial markets -- should not
deter France from making social and economic reforms.
   "All these problems should encourage us to make changes, instead of closing in on ourselves."
   Opposition leaders have called on Sarkozy to make big changes in his
policies and style of government following the election results, while some in
his own camp have argued that the government needs to build more public
support for reforms.
   But the government has sought to play down the scale of the defeat,
attributing it to low turnout, at 62 percent, and the impatience of voters
keen to sample the benefits of Sarkozy's reforms.
   Sarkozy is battling a severe drop in his approval ratings that pollsters
attribute to pessimism over the economy coupled with the perception that he is
distracted by his personal life.
   The president revamped his communications team on Monday, sacking his
official spokesman, and was expected to announce the arrival of some new faces in the lower ranks of government later Tuesday.
   Elysee sources have said the president is changing his style to project a
more statesmanlike image after earning the nickname "the Bling-Bling
   Sarkozy divorced from his second wife Cecilia in October and four months
later married supermodel-turned-singer Carla Bruni after a whirlwind romance.


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