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Sarkozy’s son drops bid for plum position

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-10-23

Jean Sarkozy, the 23-year-old son of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, has withdrawn his bid to oversee the agency that manages the wealthy business district known as La Defense amid charges of nepotism.

Newspapers across France on Friday led with the sensational news that the son of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Jean, had dropped his bid for a top public post during a primetime TV interview on Thursday following an acrimonious nepotism row.

“The sacrifice of the son,” read the front page headline of left wing paper Liberation the morning after Jean – or “Prince Jean” as he has been dubbed by the press – said he would not seek election as the head of EPAD, a government agency that oversees the capital’s wealthy La Defense business district.

"I would not want any victory to be tainted by suspicion. I will not accept being suspected of favouritism," the 23-year-old student and fledgling politician told France 2 television.

But, Sarkozy added, he would still seek election to the EPAD board at a vote scheduled for Friday.

EPAD is the influential agency that runs La Defense, a commercial district that is home to 2,500 head offices, including some of France’s largest business conglomerates such as Total and Societe Generale bank.

Meritocracy and ‘banana republics’

Jean Sarkozy’s bid to run for EPAD head sparked howls of protest not only from France’s opposition Socialists, but also from some members of his father’s ruling UMP party.

A poll last week by a top French polling institute found that two-thirds of French people disapproved of Sarkozy’s candidature, with several denouncing the nepotism, which critics have characterised as more befitting a “banana republic” than a European democracy.

The controversy also sparked a long-standing French national debate about French meritocracy, particularly in the country’s public service.

‘Lost the battle, not the war’

The morning after Sarkozy announced his decision to drop his bid, some French political analysts said they were not impressed by the recent move.

“He renounced his bid, but he hasn’t given up his political ambitions,” wrote columnist Olivier Picard in the daily, Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace. “At no point did he appear to have the slightest doubt about the crux of the issue, which is his capacity, his legitimacy and his ability to competently do the job.”

The current row was sparked when Sarkozy set his sights on the EAPD chief post after 65-year-old Patrick Devedjian, a political ally of his father, reached the mandatory retirement age.

Reporting from the Parisian suburb of Nanterre, where the vote for the EAPD board is being held, FRANCE 24’s Cyril Vanier said the saga that has gripped France for the past two weeks shows no sign of abating.

“He has lost the battle, but certainly not the war,” said Vanier. “Today, the compliments for his move are rolling in, with some saying his retraction shows that Jean Sarkozy has sound political sense.”


Date created : 2009-10-22