Sarkozy ‘nepotism’ row puts country's reputation in the dock

Pressure is piling up on French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose 23-year-old undergraduate son looks set to head-up the main business district in Paris. Worryingly, not only have there been howls of disapproval at home, but internationally as well.

The imminent appointment of the French president’s son to a top post at the country’s biggest business district is doing damage to France’s international image, according to domestic and international commentators.
Jean Sarkozy – a 23-year-old undergraduate who is married to a wealthy heiress – is tipped to become chairman of the EPAD agency overseeing development in the Paris business area La Defense.
Since the story broke on Thursday, French media have increasingly been questioning his meteoric rise in French politics, with many suggesting is inevitably down to his father’s status as the country’s head of state – blatant nepotism in other words.
The international media immediately picked up on the story.
“Banana republic”
Italy’s Corriere della Sera daily newspaper referred to Sarkozy I and Sarkozy II in an editorial that accused the French president of trying to create a “Republican Monarchy” and trying to “prepare the succession to the throne”.
The Times’ Paris correspondent Charles Bremmer wrote of “an astonishing act of nepotism by Nicolas Sarkozy”.
“The term banana republic has been used by a couple of French friends in reaction to the news from Paris this week,” he wrote.
China’s state television channel CCTV presented the story as “French-style” familial favouritism in a news broadcast, focussing on Chinese businesses that had been invited to invest in La Defense.
CCTV also alluded to an incident in which “Little Sarkozy” (referring to Jean, not his father), had got away with a scooter collision, claiming he is “above the law”.
“Thrown to the wolves”
In France, criticism from the left-leaning press has been equally resounding.
Libération on Tuesday ran the headline “Moi, mon papa, il est president” – which translates as “my daddy’s the president” – as its front page splash.
The newspaper has not held back in referring to Jean Sarkozy as “Dauphin”, the old French term for the King’s son and heir apparent.
Sarkozy responded Tuesday saying his son had been “thrown to the wolves” by the press, which he said was unfairly targeting his son.
"It is never right for someone to be thrown to the wolves, without reason and in an excessive manner," Sarkozy said.

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