In a surprising move, Jean Sarkozy, youngest son of the French president, appeared on French national television on Thursday night to announce his decision to stand down from the elections to the presidency of Epad, managing body of Paris’s business district La Défense. His candidacy had been the subject of much debate in France over the past fortnight, attracting criticism from the general public and politicians alike, but in the interview with news broadcaster France 2, he claimed the decision was one he had “taken alone” after “much reflection”.
If successfully appointed, 23-year-old second-year law student Jean Sarkozy would have replaced Minister for Economic Recovery Patrick Devedijan, as head of Epad and taken control over the spending and investment of billions of Euros. But the potential appointment sparked a national polemic, and whilst his supporters claimed he was a “mature, natural choice” for the position, over 40,000 French citizens put their names to an online petition demanding that he be removed from consideration, citing concerns both over his youth and inexperience.
More dangerous accusations of nepotism had also been circulating in political circles, with former Presidential candidate François Bayrou accusing the Sarkozy family of “clan politics” and claimed that Sarkozy was leading France into a “Banana Republic”. This theme was taken up on Thursday by demonstrators outside the building where the Epad elections took place, who carried banana phones to register their discontent. President Sarkozy’s Socialist opponent in the 2007 presidential elections Segolène Royal, speaking in a radio interview, also alluded to the advantageous position Sarkozy Senior could be left in at the next elections if his son had access to the “generation of billion of euros”.
His father, however, stood by him during the controversy, claiming that his son had been “thrown to the wolves”. On Thursday night, Sarkozy Junior emphasised that his father had played no part in his resolution to stand down, telling reporters, “He said to me, ‘it’s your decision, it’s your responsibility’ ”. He also refuted any claims of nepotism, but said he felt any victory would have been “stained with suspicion”.
In spite of his withdrawal from these elections, Jean Sarkozy is showing no signs of faltering in his ambitious career. His is already a councillor in the wealthy Hauts de Seine area of Paris, and will remain a board member for Epad.