President Sarkozy caused embarrassment among his political allies yesterday with news that his 23-year-old student son is to be handed the powerful post of boss of Europe’s biggest business district.
As the Opposition cried nepotism, stalwarts of Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement said that the president was going too far in lining up Jean, a third-year student, to head the public agency that runs La Défense, the island of corporate towers in the west of Paris.
Patrick Devedjian, a Cabinet minister and the current Défense boss, is being moved aside for the president’s second son. He reacted bitterly yesterday with a quotation from Corneille, the 17th-century dramatist: “For souls nobly born, valour does not await the passing of years.” Privately, other UMP officials said that Sarkozy was exposing himself to accusations of dynasty building.
Patrick Jarry, the Communist Mayor of Nanterre, which borders La Défense, said that the president’s younger son had no legitimacy and no qualifications for such a post. “This is nothing less than an attempt to ensure the permanence of the clan and lock down the executive power in the area,” he said.
If the job is confirmed in December, the ascent of the fledgeling politician will be even more meteoric than that of his father, who won the mayor’s post in Neuilly, the rich suburb that adjoins La Défense, at the age of 28.
Unlike the president, who forged his own way in local politics, the elevation of “Prince Jean” has been greatly assisted by his father’s power in the area. Sarko Jr, who has blond golden-boy looks and is much taller than le père, won a Neuilly seat in the Hauts-de-Seine county council, Sarkozy’s old fiefdom, last year and then was handed the job of heading the UMP group there.
Chairmanship of the Epad, the agency that manages the business district, is a political post in the gift of the council, so there is little doubt that Jean will receive the appointment. As head of the public agency, which was run by his father until 2007, he will oversee the multibillion-euro expansion of the district, where numerous big companies have their headquarters.
Le Dauphin, as Jean is also known, will be able to celebrate his new part-time post at the same time as the extension of the Sarkozy dynasty. Jessica Sebaoun, his heiress wife, is to give birth to the president’s first grandchild in December.
Jean’s promotion was seen by the opposition Socialist party as part of Sarkozy’s scheme to create a new Greater Paris region, controlled by the UMP. The cabinet endorsed the 30-year plan yesterday in the face of opposition from the Socialists, who control both Paris and the surrounding Île-de-France region.