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L'affaire Sarkozy

2:50 PM, Oct 25, 2009 • By ULF GARTZKE
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In the end, the public and political outrage was simply too big to ignore. Tens of thousands of French citizens used emails, call-in radio shows, letters to the editor, and online petitions to express their profound anger and disappointment at President Nicolas Sarkozy's attempt to have his 23-year-old student son Jean installed as head of the public development agency running La Défense, one of Europe's biggest business districts.

Following several days of massive backlash, "Prince Jean" finally went on TV Thursday night to announce that he would not seek the senior-level government job for fear that his election would be "stained with suspicion." Interestingly, it was the center-right Le Figaro -- a paper normally supportive of the president -- that first reported that Nicolas Sarkozy was indeed behind his son's surprise nomination to lead La Défense. Instead, Jean Sarkozy will now serve as one of the agency's 45 board members, a position to which the young first-term town councilor from Neuilly was just elected Friday morning.

France's political establishment immediately hailed Jean's decision as "wise", "mature" and "courageous". Call it what you want. In the end, Jean Sarkozy's barely-face-saving exit spared him, his father and the entire country a major embarrassment, preventing France from reaching the low points of a "Republique bananière" where nepotism and family connections trump everything else.