PARIS - France's President Nicolas Sarkozy enters the new year weakened in the polls while looking back at scandals, legislative setbacks and frustrated efforts to lead the fight against climate change.
Having seen France emerge from recession, he is now also under pressure to follow through by easing high unemployment and controlling France's massive public debt.
He used his new year address to the nation on Thursday to defend his government's measures to ease the effects of recession, while acknowledging the tough challenges ahead.
"Our trials our not yet over, but 2010 will be a year of renewal," he promised in a televised address. "Together we have avoided the worst, but we have also prepared for the future."
Sarkozy cited measures credited with helping France exit recession, such as the creation of a sovereign wealth fund, and forward-looking ones such as a borrowing programme to fund investment in education and digital technology.
But 2009 has seen a number of frustrations and embarrassments for the man who at the start of his term was dubbed the "hyperactive" president.
He has had to weather two embarrassing scandals -- a furore over Culture Minister Frederic Mitterand's past as a sex tourist and a nepotism row over a bid for a high-powered job by Sarkozy's 23-year-son Jean.
The year drew to an end with a last-minute setback for one of the president's main priorities: a carbon emissions tax, rejected as inegalitarian on Wednesday by the Constitutional Council, or high court.
The ruling came less than two weeks after world leaders failed to reach a binding accord at the Copenhagen climate summit, at which Sarkozy had pressed hard for a deal.
Observers saw the latest setback as representative of his wider woes.
"The 'hyper-president' -- the one who can raise hell and shake things up in France and on the international stage -- has had his day," wrote the left-wing daily Liberation on Thursday.
"Copenhagen and now the Constitutional Council have just demonstrated that."
Sarkozy has made the tax, which aims to curb climate change, a pillar of his 2010 budget, and vowed on Thursday to push on with it.
"I am not a man who gives up at the first sign of difficulty," he said.
Elsewhere on the legislative front, the high court in June forced the government to amend plans to punish Internet users for illegal downloads, and lawmakers strongly resisted its plans to scrap a local business tax.
Another headache for Sarkozy is his government's debate on "national identity," which has aggravated racial sensitivities and provoked some calls for it to be dropped. It is due to run until the end of January.
Sarkozy trumpeted his Internet piracy reform and the business tax in Thursday's speech and alluded to issues of unity and mutual respect without explicitly referring to national identity.
According to the latest survey by pollsters IFOP, Sarkozy this month reached his lowest rating since taking office in May 2007, with 62 percent of French people disapproving of his actions.
"Nicolas Sarkozy says that to reform the country things have to move on all fronts," the political analyst Stephane Rozes told AFP. "But he is not offering any road map for the country, nor for his own majority, which is confused."
Meanwhile in 2010, regional elections loom in March, at which the anti-immigrant National Front party has vowed to chip away his support among right-wing voters.
Sarkozy has been vague about whether he will run again for office when his term ends in 2012, but is still regarded as his party's obvious candidate.
His celebrity wife, supermodel-turned-singer Carla Bruni-Sakozy, said this month "one mandate would be enough for me," prompting Sarkozy to play down her comments.
"She knows very well that such a decision needs to be taken when the time comes, and that will be in 2011," he said. "Until then I have a job to do that is extremely difficult."