PARIS – Amid fierce accusations of favoritism, President Nicolas Sarkozy's son renounced his candidacy Thursday for the leadership of the organization that runs France's most important business district on the western edge of the capital.
Jean Sarkozy said that he would run to join the council that oversees La Defense in a vote Friday, but that accusations of favoritism had led him to reconsider his decision ultimately to seek its presidency when that vote is held Dec. 4.
"I do not want a victory stained by doubt," Sarkozy said.
The younger Sarkozy's candidacy drew mounting criticism from both the left and within the conservatives on grounds the 23-year-old, who has not completed his law studies, was not qualified for the high-profile job. The polemic was starting to damage his powerful father whose ratings have slipped in the last two weeks, in part because of the polemic over his son.
EPAD, as the organization is known, is a quasi-governmental agency that oversees real estate and administration in the La Defense complex where 150,000 people work. The French president has big ambitions for La Defense to become an even more important European financial center, and his son's accession to a leadership position was part of the plan.
Sarkozy appeared composed as he spoke in an interview on the main news program on France 2, of France's two biggest television channels Thursday night. Just before Sarkozy spoke, a news report showed protesters with yellow banana phones deriding his candidacy. Numerous commentators in recent days have compared France to a banana republic.
In a statement, Patrick Jarry, the communist mayor of the city of Nanterre which borders La Defense, welcomed Sarkozy's decision.
"This is the voice of wisdom. This candidacy had no legitimacy whatsoever and was felt widely as a real provocation by the French and their local elected officials. It had created a real shock among French youth," Jarry's statement said.