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Updated: December 29, 2009 23:01 IST

Sarkozys face nepotism charge

Vaiju Naravane
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A ‘Reader’s Digest’ poll conducted last month found that 48 per cent of the people in France believed the former supermodel was “very influential” in her husband’s policy-making.
A ‘Reader’s Digest’ poll conducted last month found that 48 per cent of the people in France believed the former supermodel was “very influential” in her husband’s policy-making.

The French presidential couple Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife former supermodel and pop singer Carla Bruni are facing fresh accusations of nepotism. This time it is Ms. Bruni and not her husband who is accused of having pushed the candidature of her son’s godfather, Francois Baudot to the post of administrative inspector general for culture.

Last October, Mr. Sarkozy’s son from his former marriage, Jean, a 23-year old undergraduate had, with the help of his father and influential heavyweights within the ruling UMP party, tried to muscle his way into the chairmanship of EPAD, the largest and wealthiest urban development agency in Europe which administers Paris’ La Defense business district. Jean Sarkozy withdrew his candidature after a huge public protest and his father later admitted it had all been “a mistake”.

Tempers are running high at the Culture Ministry in what is being seen as the latest intrusion by the First Lady in affairs of state that do not directly concern her. Ms. Bruni was said to have urged the nomination of the former President, Mitterrand’s nephew, Frederique Mitterrand, to the post of Minister of Culture. His appointment gave rise to yet another controversy when the extreme right xenophobic and homophobic National Front party pounced upon a semi-autobiographical novel he had penned, detailing his encounters with young male prostitutes in Thailand.

It now appears that Mr. Baudot’s nomination as “an external appointment” was communicated to Serge Lasvignes, General Secretary of the government in a note sent out by the President’s office. But the commission composed of eminent personalities in charge of judging the aptitude of external candidates found him wanting and unanimously advised against his appointment. Despite this his name was put forward again, more discreetly this time, on the eve of the Christmas break.

Officials at the Culture Ministry are seething. The official austerity and cost cutting policy is that half of the retiring staff is not to be replaced. However, this is the fourth such appointment for only two budgeted posts in the Ministry.

Mr. Baudot had a decent CV, claims the magazine Le Point which broke the story. Then why this negative ruling against his appointment? The answer, the magazine suggests, might lie in the fact that Mr. Baudot, like Mr. Mitterrand, has published a steamy book about his past. Entitled The Art of Being Poor, it chronicles his adventures, sleazy affairs and dissolute youth. In the acknowledgements, he profusely thanks Ms. Bruni. The commission perhaps wished to avoid the scandal and gossip that surrounded Mr. Mitterrand’s novel. Mr. Baudot’s salacious confessions have been doing the rounds of the corridors of power for the past few months.

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