Sarkozy's Yacht Holiday: His First Faux Pas?

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In a battle that would have made Napoleon proud, Nicolas Sarkozy defeated Segolene Royal, France's first serious female presidential candidate. After the victory, the America-loving Sarkozy decided to take a well-deserved break before becoming France's big cheese.

Sarkozy and his wife joined their CEO friend Vincent Bollore on his 190-foot yacht Monday for a cruise around the Mediterranean island of of Malta.

But luxury and presidency do not always go well together in the country of "bobo" -- bourgeois bohemian. Many French said "non" to the luxury yacht vacation.

The French daily le Monde published a cartoon showing Sarkozy's wife, Cecilia, on the yacht's deck asking the poor to make less noise.

Francois Hollande, opposition leader and partner of left-wing candidate Segolene Royal, criticized Sarkozy for taking a vacation that would cost the equivalent of 17 years worth of a worker's basic salary.

Sarkozy returned to Paris this morning to attend a slavery commemoration with current President Jacques Chirac, but he was unrepentant.

While he was still in Malta, Sarkozy told the press that his trip did not cost any money to the French taxpayers -- it was offered to him by his multimillionaire pal Bollore.

"I don't see the controversy," Sarkozy told the press. "I have no intention of hiding. I have no intention of lying. I have no intention of apologizing."

According to Dominique Moisi of the International Relations Institute of Paris, the yacht episode was probably Sarkozy's first faux pas since his election.

"It is hard to gather all the French if you show off such luxury," she said. By taking a luxury vacation just after his election, Sarkozy sent "the wrong message at the wrong time," said Moisi.

During his interview with the press, Sarkozy sent another message. Unlike most French presidents, he is set to actively support America. He showed it by wearing an NYPD T-shirt during the interview as he finished a jog on a beach on Malta.

Was that a political gaffe? Moisi doesn't think so. "He was himself," said the analyst. "He probably found it amusing."

Back in Paris today, Sarkozy may soon have to deal with a violent crowd of left-wing rioters who have attacked public property and clashed with the police this week. Around 1,200 cars have been burnt nationwide since last Sunday.

A branch of the Sorbonne has been occupied since Wednesday by students who are protesting Sarkozy's plan to modernize universities and allow them more budget flexibility.

Left-wing protesters marched on Boulevard St. Michel in the Latin Quarter of Paris Wednesday, shouting, "Sarko fascist! The people will have your hide!"

For some these events echo the riots of 2005 and 2006 when French youths protested across the country, setting fire to thousands of cars, and later occupying France's main universities. But this week's riots have received limited coverage in the French press.

"We don't talk that much about it in France," said Paris-based political journalist Laurent Desbonnets. "We are not surprised. We are used to seeing people breaking things. There have been violent demonstrations here for a while."

The protesters who blocked the Sorbonne belong to small and anarchistic autonomous groups, said Desbonnets. "They are not supported by mainstream student unions. They are very isolated."

Opposition leaders argued that social unrest shows that Sarkozy's ruling is set to fuel tension, and may help the left and center garner votes for next month's legislative elections.

But experts who spoke to ABC News doubt the recent violence will affect the coming legislative elections. "[Sarkozy] has weaknesses," said Moisi, "but the French are coherent." In spite of the yacht controversy and the violence, "those who intended to vote for him for the legislative election will probably do it."

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