FRANCE

JUNE 16 2008 19:38h

Sarkozy´s Son Climbs New Rung On Political Ladder

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Jean Sarkozy, a 21-year-old law student, won election earlier this year as a local councillor in Neuilly, the chic Paris suburb.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's second son Jean took a further step in his emerging political career on Monday when he was elected head of the centre-right UMP party group on his regional council.

Jean Sarkozy, a 21-year-old law student, won election earlier this year as a local councillor in Neuilly, the chic Paris suburb where his father launched his own political career and was mayor for 19 years.

Jean Sarkozy had already taken control of the UMP in his local precinct, and on Monday he was elected head of the UMP group on the Conseil General, a sort of regional council, in the Hauts de Seine district outside Paris where Neuilly is located.

Jean Sarkozy, whose flowing blond locks contrast with his father's short dark hair, entered politics as campaign manager for his father's spokesman David Martinon when he ran for election as mayor of Neuilly earlier this year.

When Martinon's campaign began to flounder, Jean Sarkozy quickly helped engineer his removal, earning a reputation as a precocious operator with at least some of his father's ruthless political instincts.

His election on Monday also involved sidelining a rival from an allied party, but he struck a modest note after the vote.

"I stood, in all humility, aware that there is a lot of work to do and it is a difficult mission," he told reporters.

"To the extent that I was able to be the candidate of unity and reconciliation, I chose to stand. There is no defiance towards anyone at all in my move."

Jean Sarkozy's election as UMP regional group head capped a memorable weekend during which he celebrated his engagement to a member of the family that controls Darty, one of France's largest consumer electronics chains.