French cartoonist Plantu may rue a Sarkozy defeat
By Catherine Bremer
PARIS (Reuters) - Perched on a stack of books to reach a lectern, peeping out from under Napoleon's hat, or scowling as flies buzz around his head, Nicolas Sarkozy will be sorely missed by at least one person if he loses France's presidential election.
Cartoonist Plantu, whose cheeky sketches on the front page of the highbrow daily Le Monde are a fixture of French politics, loathes Sarkozy's policies but confesses to a sort of affection for a man his felt-tip pen has lampooned for years.
From his first sketch of the young politician as a Smurf, mocking his diminutive stature, to years of portraying him as a conspiring president-in-waiting and hyperactive head of state, Plantu has had a quarter-century of fun with the conservative.
Opinion polls show Socialist rival Francois Hollande could oust Sarkozy in the April-May election. Worse, Sarkozy has vowed to quit public life altogether if defeated.
"As a cartoonist, I would lose a real character," Plantu told Reuters, flicking through a file of old Sarkozy drawings.
"At the same time, I am one of the few people who thinks he may still be re-elected," he said, adding with a grin: "What's good for me isn't necessarily good for democracy."
Plantu's love-hate rapport with Sarkozy reflects that of many French people who dislike the president's brash manner and punish him with rock-bottom approval ratings yet tune in by the millions whenever he appears on television.
"He can exasperate the public. There are things people don't like about him. But he engages with people and most people feel a connection with him they don't with Hollande," said Frederic Lefebvre, a junior minister who advised Sarkozy for years. Continued...