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Sarkozy's son drops drive for plum public job

world Updated: Oct 23, 2009 02:19 IST
Reuters
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The 23-year-old son of French President Nicolas Sarkozy has dropped his bid to run the agency that oversees Paris's wealthy business district, saying on Thursday he wanted to remove any suspicion of nepotism.

However, Jean Sarkozy told French 2 television he would still seek a seat on the board of the influential EPAD agency at a vote scheduled for Friday.

"If I am elected, I will not seek to become chairman," said the youthful Sarkozy, a second-year law student who is looking to build a career for himself in politics.

Critics widely denounced his efforts to take the helm of EPAD, which manages the La Defense neighbourhood on the outskirts of Paris, and accused his father of orchestrating the unprecedented promotion.

"I would not want any victory to be overshadowed by suspicion. I won't accept being suspected of favouritism," said Sarkozy, who belied his young age with a polished, self-assured performance on primetime television.

Jean's partial retreat represents a setback for his father, who spent a lot of political capital defending the move on EPAD and clearly did not expect the hostile reaction to his son's precocious ambitions.

La Defense is a large zone of skyscrapers and corporate headquarters that was created by former President Charles de Gaulle in 1958 and generates around 10 percent of French gross domestic product.

A President, a father

Jean, the president's second son from his first marriage, entered politics last year when he was elected as a councillor in the suburb where his father built his own political career.

The young Sarkozy will almost certainly win a seat on the board of EPAD, where centre-right supporters enjoy a majority. He had previously said he then would stand for chairman when that position became vacant in December.

Asked if he had talked to President Sarkozy before deciding to hold back, Jean said: "Did I talk to the president? no. Did I talk to my father? Yes. He is like all fathers and I am like all sons. It is natural that at difficult times, we talk together."

Opinion polls showed that the majority of French voters on both the right and the left were opposed to Jean Sarkozy taking charge at EPAD.

Some critics said Sarkozy's France risked becoming a banana republic and scores of opponents staged a demonstration at La Defense on Thursday, waving bananas in the air.

Jean Sarkozy said his candidacy had been unfairly hobbled.

"For the last two weeks, there has been a campaign of manipulation and misinformation," he said, adding that he would take the disappointment in his stride.

"I am not deaf. I am not blind. I have made a decision. I am not at all bitter. I have learnt a lot," he said, making clear that he would remain in public life.

"I have a vocation for politics, a passion for politics."

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