France counts down the days for Bruni-Sarkozy baby

Tue Oct 11, 2011 8:48am EDT
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PARIS (Reuters) - France's first lady Carla Bruni is expected to give birth in the coming days, keeping French media on tenterhooks before an event that could offer President Nicolas Sarkozy a welcome respite from non-stop political headwinds.

The birth of a baby could help soften Sarkozy's image with voters less than seven months before a presidential election he risks losing to Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande, though pollsters say any boost would likely be brief.

Bruni's due date is a closely guarded secret, but is widely believed to be a matter of days away, and media coverage surrounding her pregnancy has grown to fever pitch in what has become a national countdown to her delivery.

Police have set up a discrete security cordon around the private clinic in western Paris where Bruni is due to give birth, and a galley of TV cameras stand guard around the clock.

"Carla Bruni -- the baby due soon!" trumpeted a headline this week on news website, which focuses on politics and people, echoing cover stories in weekly magazines.

The excitement stems partly from the novelty of the presidential couple having a baby in office, in a country where the head of state's private life was long kept completely out of view -- especially where children were concerned.

Many in France found Sarkozy's high-speed courtship of Bruni, a singer-songwriter and former model, distasteful coming so quickly after his divorce from his second wife, Cecilia, but Sarkozy has been at pains to be more discreet and presidential over the pregnancy.

Earlier this year, photographs of Sarkozy relaxing on a beach with the heavily pregnant yet glowing Bruni showed a tender, sympathetic side to the conservative president.

His image will be key as he tries to woo back an electorate fed up at economic gloom and disillusioned with a leader many see as impulsive and brash, despite his leadership on international issues such as the crisis in Libya.   Continued...