France's new right wing leader Nicolas Sarkozy hit an immediate political controversy Wednesday over a luxury holiday taken on a yacht belonging to a billionaire friend.
Sarkozy was said to be preparing his new goverment on the three-day holiday in Malta, while at home demonstrators staged a third night of violence against his election triumph.
The president elect flew to Malta with his wife Cecilia and their 10-year-old son Louis on Monday to relax after his weekend election triumph over the Socialist Segolene Royal.
The British-registered 60-metre (200-foot) yacht belongs to billionaire tycoon Vincent Bollore and the holiday quickly drew flak from political opponents who saw in it bad taste.
"Is it normal that a future president gets his holidays sponsored by rich people who have everything to gain from the favours of power?" asked Socialist deputy Jean-Marie Le Guen.
"What causes a problem is the style of the holiday, the fact that he is on the boat of a rich businessman and we don't know today if the Republic is assuring the cost of the trip," said Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande.
Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) defended his action however.
Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a former right wing prime minister, said Sarkozy deserved the holiday and that he only starts work on May 16 when he takes over from President Jacques Chirac.
"After five difficult years, Nicolas Sarkozy owed three days of exceptional happiness to his family before five years of labour to the exclusive service of the French people," Raffarin said on French radio.
French newspapers noted what one called Sarkozy's "immoderate taste for super luxury."
"A way of showing-off money that recalls Silvio Berlusconi," the billionaire former Italian prime minister who never let office hinder his high-flying lifestyle, concluded La Republique des Pyrenees.
Sarkozy, the son of a Hungarian immigrant who won Sunday's election with a promises of a radical reform programme, was due to return to France later Wednesday and take part in an event on Thursday with Chirac.
Last Mod: 09 Mayıs 2007, 13:23
Demonstrators opposed to the new French president meanwhile staged a third night of violence which was on a much smaller scale than the two previous nights.
Police battled small groups of what were described as extreme left wing activists in Paris and Lyon on Tuesday night. One office of Sarkozy's ruling part in a Lyon suburb was set on fire.
Around 150 protestors tried to block access to the Bastille square in Paris but were dispersed by police, who said they arrested several people.
Sarkozy, a tough-talking former interior minister, is hated in the high-immigrant suburbs after he described young delinquents as "rabble" and for his stance on law and order and immigration.
He was interior minister when suburbs across France exploded into riots for three weeks in late 2005, in which hundreds of buildings were burned and thousands of cars torched.
Segolene Royal had warned that France could slide into unrest if the right-winger won the election.
Sarkozy will have a busy schedule when he begins his ambitious bid to overhaul France's lacklustre economy. He has vowed to cut taxes for the wealthy, trim unemployment and curb the power of the country's powerful unions.
But first he must name a prime minister, with most reports saying it will be former social affairs minister Francois Fillon.
He then faces parliamentary elections in June that will decide whether the new president will have the strong majority needed to push through his reform programme.