Saturday, October 17, 2009

Nicolas Bonaparte's King Making.

The most scandalous political news these days come from France again, not from the U.S.. It is a change from the Bush era and it seems that French President is trying hard to outdo King George.

It is no surprise to those of us who have seen the early signs (here and here) that the the comparison between Nicolas Sarkozy and Napoleon had direct bearing on the governance of France.

After scandals over sex tourism (see our two previous posts), racist-sounding chaffing, now comes nepotism :

The French people found out this week that the president's son, Jean Sarkozy (i.e. as 'Prince Jean'), is a candidate chairman of the development agency for La Défense (called EPAD), a high-rise financial center to the west of Paris where major top firms have their headquarters - an area which is supposed to develop and compete with London.

Not only is Jean Sakozy only 23 years old, but he has not even finished school yet - he is repeating his second year of undergraduate law at the Sorbonne (after repeating his first), and has virtually no experience. Sure he was elected as a department councillor of the Hauts-de-Seine, but he complished little as he won the Neuilly seat, in his dad's conservative fiefdom.

He was then given the job of heading his dad's political party (UMP) in the department.

The French satitirical newspaper Le Canard Enchainé (not available online) has also investigated on how the whole process was planned by the Elysées for more than a year, (by either forcing or coaxing people into giving up their seats to make sure there would be no opposition in the EPAD body).

As you can imagine, this has provoked an outcry in France, and even made the headlines in China. A majority of French people find it scandalous 63% oppose the decision... What why 37% don't seem to be bothered.

I suppose some people may be blasé. It is true that political dynasties are nothing new in France where the presidents are more elected monarchs (who act as if they had been given all powers for term, not unlike George W. Bush) than modern presidents.

But this is different because Nicolas Sarkozy ran his presidential campaign claiming that his self-made man background made him different from the politics-as-usual. He was elected on the promise of a new "irreproachable republic" based on work, merit and the end of "birth privileges". The hypocrisy is killing me.

But here's the icing on the cake - on the very day following the news of his son's appointment, President Sarkozy gave a speech on education reform in which he praised Napoleon Bonaparte for having founded an egalitarian high school system that effectively ended "the privileges that come with birth" into families of high standing, adding that "to succeed in France, what counts is no longer being well-born, but having worked hard and proven yourself through your studies and work."

And he said it with a straight face.

Indeed he was right, Napoleon seems to be more relevant than ever - Napoleon, also known as the "King Maker" was the master of nepotism, making his family members kings and queens of countries he had invaded.

Hopefully for his own sake (and for the French) Prince Jean will not be another King of Rome but we may not get rid of Sarkozy dynasty so easily. Jean Sarkozy and his wife are expecting their first child by the end of 2009.

UPDATE : Under enormous pressure from negative public opinion - including petitions and funny flash-mob demonstrations in which young people wielded bananas like mobile phones (video) as reference to the Banana Republic France is becoming - Prince Jean finally gave in and said he would not seek the presidency of the organization that runs France’s most important business district


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