Sarkozy junior: The son also rises
President Nicolas Sarkozy's son Jean has shot from a little-known "brat" to would-be national politician in just two years, a meteoric rise unlikely to be derailed by his climbdown in a nepotism row.
In a steady, well-coached performance on prime-time television the president's 23-year-old son told millions of French viewers he would bow out of the race, but that his "passion" for politics was undented.
"What is certain, is that I will be fighting more battles before French voters in the years to come," he said."Bravo the artist!" ran an editorial in Le Monde the following day. "Jean Sarkozy was forced to throw in the towel, but he did so with elegance and maturity, laying the groundwork for his political future."
The president's son was propelled onto the political scene last year when he was elected councillor for Neuilly, the rich Paris suburb that catapulted his father to prominence 30 years ago.
Within months he took the head of the right-wing UMP majority in the council for Hauts-de-Seine, the region that includes La Defense, the launchpad for his bid to chair the agency managing the district.
Only a year earlier Jean Sarkozy was making headlines over an alleged hit-and-run accident on his scooter. He was finally cleared but the drawn-out trial over such a trivial incident sparked accusations of favouritism.
Jean Sarkozy denies his meteoric career is being piloted from the Elysee palace, but opposition leaders say the playing field is far from level in his father's fiefdom of 30 years.
"Even a goat would be elected in Neuilly with the backing of the UMP," scoffed Socialist deputy Arnaud Montebourg.
"He's the Paris Hilton of French politics," charged one of them, brandishing a giant "Daddy's Boy diploma."
But supporters insist the young Sarkozy inherited not just his father's burning ambition but also his "political genius."
Prime Minister Francois Fillon, commenting on Jean Sarkozy's decision, predicted that "this step backwards will serve him well," while the head of the ruling UMP party, Jean-Francois Cope, half-jokingly said he could one day be a rival for the presidency.
Jean Sarkozy, "is like Nicolas but better," gushed family friend and ruling party lawmaker, Patrick Balkany.Tall, blonde and handsome, Jean Sarkozy bears little physical resemblance to his father but inherited an uncannily similar voice and has co-opted many of the president's catch phrases and expressions.
Trained as an actor before enrolling in law school, he apparently followed intensive media coaching in recent weeks, clipping off his flowing blonde locks and donning business-like spectacles, in a bid to shed his juvenile image.
Last year he married Jessica Sebaoun, heiress to the electronics retailer Darty and the couple are expecting their first baby -- something the young Sarkozy cited on television last week as evidence of his "committed" character.
Some observers suggest he may already be positioning himself to take the head of the Hauts-de-Seine council in 2011 -- or the city hall in Neuilly.
Yet others suggest the son of divorced parents -- Sarkozy and his mother divorced in 1989 -- harbours a secret ambition to equal, or surpass a father who gave his life to politics many years ago.