PARIS France's Socialist party on Friday accused Nicolas Sarkozy of suffering from "small man syndrome", saying this explained why the shorter-than-average president had proclaimed his reforms the biggest in decades.
The Socialists, who are still trying to recover from their double defeat in presidential and parliamentary elections earlier this year, have sharply criticized pension, social and civil service reforms Sarkozy announced this week.
Referring to Sarkozy's comments on Thursday that he was preparing "the biggest reform of the social model since the Liberation (of France)", Socialist spokesman Benoit Hamon said:
"In psychoanalysis, this is what you call the syndrome of the small man who considers that everything he does is bigger than anything that has ever happened," he told reporters.
"With Nicolas Sarkozy, all he does, all he touches, he considers it to be the greatest. In reality, we have never witnessed such a step backwards since the Liberation. On the social issue, as well as on immigration," Hamon said.
French media say Sarkozy is around 1.65 meters tall (5 feet 5 inches), some 20 centimeters shorter than his predecessor Jacques Chirac.
He wears shoes with particularly high heels, and popular satirical television show Les Guignols de l'Info has frequently poked fun at him for being very short and trying to seem taller.
Hamon told Reuters later on Friday he had not wanted to refer to Sarkozy's height, but to the president's way of communicating and "his obsession to always wanting to explain what he does is the biggest, most beautiful done in 50 years".
In a television interview on Thursday, Sarkozy defended his reform plans, saying he would not let union protests deter him from ending pension privileges awarded to many state workers.
He sparked union anger earlier this week by announcing that he would phase out the so-called "special regimes", which allow rail, electricity and gas workers, among others, to retire earlier than their peers in other industries.
France's Socialists have said the proposed reforms only helped employers but would hurt workers. They have also criticized Sarkozy's proposal to introduce immigration quotas.
Sarkozy, who won the presidential election against Socialist candidate Segolene Royal in May, has portrayed himself as a hyperactive hands-on president.
He is popular with many voters, with 64 percent of French people saying they trust him in being able to resolve France's problems, according to a recent survey by TNS Sofres.
But some analysts say the president's honeymoon might be nearing an end, and that divisions have started to emerge inside his government, which he dominates leaving ministers little room for maneuver.