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New-style Sarkozy likely after voter romance ends.

PARIS -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy is widely expected to change his style of leadership after a municipal election trouncing, but aides ruled out any change to economic reform plans or a major cabinet shake-up.

Just 10 months since Sarkozy won power, many voters feel he has not protected them from the rising cost of living and think he has focused too much on his private life, marrying former model Carla Bruni after a whirlwind romance.

The opposition Socialists wrested control of more than 20 large towns and cities from Sarkozy s centre-right UMP party in Sunday s vote, the second round of the municipal election in a week. The Socialists also kept their grip on the capital Paris.

The fact that the UMP just managed to cling on to power in France s third largest city Marseille could not disguise the scale of its defeat nationwide in the first test of Sarkozy s

popularity with voters since his victory last May.

"Whatever way you look at it, it is a big victory for the left," said Jerome Jaffre, head of the Cecop polling institute. Sarkozy was elected last May on a pledge to shake up the hidebound French economy, cut back on public sector workers and modernise the state s many institutions.

The Socialists said the result reflected concern with a lacklustre economy, while UMP leaders said it showed voters wanted the government to accelerate reform plans, including an overhaul of the health, education and pension systems.

But presidential aides said the vote was likely to prompt changes to the way Sarkozy approached his job. Media reports suggested Sarkozy would start by shaking up his presidential team, with his youthful spokesman David Martinon being shown the door and more experienced heavyweights sharing the task of explaining the official line.

[c] Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2008

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Date:Apr 30, 2008
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