Sarkozy junior embroiled in nepotism row
Dubbed "Prince Jean" by the press, undergraduate Jean Sarkozy is in line to replace the minister for economic recovery.Paris -- The imminent promotion of President Nicolas Sarkozy's 23-year-old son to manage France's wealthiest business district triggered howls of protest Monday over his meteoric political rise.
Opposition politicians accused the president of nepotism, and the "Sarkozy clan" of tightening its grip on the "treasure chest" of La Defense, a district west of Paris where top French firms are headquartered.
Dubbed "Prince Jean" by the press, undergraduate Jean Sarkozy is in line to replace the minister for economic recovery, Patrick Devedjian, as chairman of EPAD, the agency overseeing office development in La Defense.
The appointment, which is all-but-certain to be formalised by a vote of the agency's board of directors in December, would only be the latest boost to Sarkozy Junior's skyrocketing career.
The blond-haired law student is an elected councillor in Neuilly, the rich Paris suburb that catapulted his father to prominence 30 years ago and leads the right-wing majority in the Hauts-de-Seine regional council.
"I do not doubt for a second that this boy has talent, but he is the president's son and the son of the former president of the Hauts-de-Seine regional council," said Socialist MP Manuel Valls.
"We know very well that the Sarkozy clan wants to get the upper hand on the department and the treasure chest that comes with managing the richest department in our country," said Valls.
An online petition launched by a local opposition leader at the weekend and calling on Sarkozy junior to withdraw his candidacy had gathered more than 8,000 signatures on Monday morning.
"Finish your law studies, gain experience in business and one day, perhaps, you can re-apply for a position once held by your father," said the petition launched by Christophe Grebert of the centrist Democratic Movement.
Former Socialist Prime Minister Laurent Fabius jokingly commented: "Europe's biggest business district is in need of a strong legal mind. And Mister Sarkozy is a second year law student. That's a very, very strong factor."
Sarkozy's Socialist rival in the 2007 elections, Segolene Royal, joined the outcry at the weekend by urging the head of state to "be concerned with the country's interests instead of finding plum posts for his son."
If Jean Sarkozy "didn't have that name would he be where he is today?" she demanded.
Royal suggested that Sarkozy junior's appointment would be "useful" for his father as he vies for re-election in 2012 because Jean would "hold the keys and be able to manage billions of euros."
Home to 2,500 head offices for such giants as Total and Societe Generale bank, La Defense is slated for expansion with the construction of the ultramodern Signal Tower designed by architect Jean Nouvel.
More than 150,000 people work in the modern skyscraper complexes on the western edge of Paris.
Sarkozy junior has kept a low profile and not made any public comment since the outcry erupted nearly a week ago.
Defending Sarkozy, UMP deputy Patrick Balkany said the president's son deserved the top job because he "is perhaps even more talented than his father was at his age."
The head of the ruling right-wing party, Xavier Bertrand, said Sarkozy junior "should not be condemned to exile just because his name is Jean Sarkozy" and argued that he had won election to the posts he now holds.
Last year, Jean Sarkozy made headlines when he married Jessica Sebaoun, heiress to the big electronics company Darty. The couple is awaiting their first baby, a boy, around year's end.
Jean Sarkozy has an older brother, rap music producer Pierre, from his father's first marriage and a half-brother, 11-year-old Louis, from Sarkozy's second marriage to Cecilia Ciganer-Albeniz, whom he divorced last year.