A French government initiative to give away thousands of Carla Bruni CDs for free to promote exports has sparked an outrage in France amid plummeting popularity of President Nicolas Sarkozy, whom she married after a lightning romance last year.
The album will be dispatched to admirers of the former Italian supermodel-turned pop singer with wine and cheese vouchers.Even as the government insists the initiative is aimed at pushing international food and drink sales, there is growing anger at the manner in which it seeks to promote the wife of the French president, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.
French taxpayers are outraged that up to 1 million pounds of their money has been transfered to marketing agency Sopexa to plug the Italian-born singer's songs, the report said.
Many believe France has still not digested the initial "bling bling" phase, symbolised by Sarkozy's whirlwind romance with the Italian heiress.
A leading commentator described her as "Carla-Antoinette", comparing her to the French queen Marie Antoinette who was constantly spoiled by her husband, Louis XVI.
According to critic Gerald Andrieu, it would not be long before Bruni was used to assist other French industries, including fashion.
"We wait with impatience the promotional week of haute couture. For Carla-Antoinette of Italy, it will perhaps be the occasion for her to get rid of her old dresses which she doesn't want anymore," he wrote in the highbrow political weekly Marianne.
At least 14,000 people in 19 countries have applied to receive one of the gift packs through the Ministry of Agriculture initiative.
Those set to get the free Bruni CDs have been asked to organise "Gallic evening" to showcase France's best exports and then put their promotion on internet sites.
The former supermodel's third album was released soon after her marriage to Sarkozy last year but sold less than 90,000 copies in France.
Bruni shrugged off the vitriolic reviews of her last album, saying: "It's understandable that people can't help mixing up my work as an artist and my official role."
As Sarkozy completes two-year in office, sixty-three per cent have written off his first 24 months as a failure, according to a poll today for Metro newspaper, with only 28 per cent holding a positive opinion.
According to analysts, disappointment with "Super Sarko" resulted from a perception that he was out to help the rich, his autocratic methods and the brash new style that he brought to the monarchical presidency.