America has the Bushes and the Clintons, so why not a Sarkozy dynasty in France?
President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 21-year-old son Jean, whose voice, vernacular and glad-handing verve eerily resembles those of his father, took a big step in that direction by launching a bid for local office.
Jean Sarkozy is running for a seat in the chic Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, the same town where his father launched his political career more than three decades ago — at age 22 — and later served as mayor for 19 years.
‘Things to prove’
He will run for election in a “canton” — the smallest administrative segment in France — in south Neuilly as part of local contests across France on March 9 and March 16. A win would give him a seat on the council for the Hauts-de-Seine department, which groups the southwestern Paris suburbs.
The younger Sarkozy told a French daily that he has “things to prove” and acknowledged speaking about his political intentions with his father — but said he did not get specific advice.
“He told me to be myself and assume my responsibilities,” the younger Sarkozy was quoted as saying in an interview posted on the Internet site of Le Figaro newspaper. “I’m very aware of the stakes.”
The president’s poll numbers have plunged in recent weeks, with many critics faulting him for blurring his personal and political lives — out of step with French presidential tradition — such as in two high-profile getaways since December with former model Carla Bruni. They were married on Feb. 2.
Jean, and his older brother Pierre, reportedly a rap producer, are Sarkozy’s sons from his first marriage to Marie-Dominique Culioli. After their divorce, Sarkozy married Cecilia Ciganer-Albeniz, with whom he had his third son, Louis. Their 11-year marriage ended in divorce in October.
Bursting onto political scene
Jean Sarkozy, a law student and part-time actor, has burst onto France’s political scene in recent weeks, displaying turns of phrase, intonation and press-the-flesh instincts that are strikingly reminiscent of his father’s.
The popular TV satire show Les Guignols de L’Info, which spoofs politicians with the use of marionettes, depicts Jean with the same puppet as used for his father — except taller, and with a mane of blonde hair.
The son’s bid follows recent political turmoil in his father’s political base. The president’s own spokesman, David Martinon, bowed out of the Neuilly mayor’s race amid signs his campaign was floundering. Jean Sarkozy often accompanied Martinon in public appearances, before unexpectedly dropping support for him on Feb. 12.
‘A risk I accept’
While it is tough to handicap the son’s chances, Neuilly — France’s richest city per capita — is known for its conservative slant, and Jean Sarkozy has the blessing of his father’s governing conservative UMP party. Three rival candidates also made the deadline for bids on Wednesday.
President Sarkozy has long said he enjoys taking risks — and his son’s candidacy, whether encouraged by the president or not, amounts to a gamble that the family name, connections and familiarity with Neuilly will sell.
“It’s not an appointment, it’s a candidacy,” Jean Sarkozy told Le Figaro. “A risk to take, and a risk I accept.”