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October 24, 2009

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Sarkozy's son wins spot on EPAD board

FRENCH President Nicolas Sarkozy's son was elected to the board of the organization that runs the country's most important business district yesterday after a dramatic withdrawal of his bid for the top spot amid fierce accusations of favoritism.

Jean Sarkozy, 23, had been the leading candidate to head EPAD, a quasi-governmental organization overseeing real estate and the administration of La Defense, the neighborhood of skyscrapers west of Paris that is home to top companies and the workplace of 150,000 people.

He withdrew that bid on Thursday night after two weeks of cries of favoritism -- and vows not to back down.

The 45-member board -- 30 of whom hail from the French president's conservative UMP party or its allies -- voted, as expected, to give him a spot on the board of directors.

He will fill the seat of a member who stepped down in October.

Current EPAD President Patrick Devedjian, forced to retire at 65, saluted the "responsible and dignified decision" of Jean Sarkozy, who has not yet finished law school, to withdraw from the running to replace him.

The young Sarkozy's surprise announcement not to seek the job of president of EPAD in a December 4 vote drew salutes of "courage" from the president's right and sighs of relief from detractors.

However, the whiff of nepotism was threatening to damage his powerful father, and it was not clear whether the affair would leave the French president unscathed. Even within Sarkozy's party, voices of dissent had risen.

"I think it's a trial for the son and the father, a failure that will follow them for a long time to come," said Jean-Paul Huchon, Socialist president of the Ile de France region that includes Paris and its environs, including La Defense.

There was speculation the French president had a hand in his son's resignation.


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