Letter from Ajaccio: Napoleon on the March to Capture Island Votes

Article excerpt

Another Napoleon is hoping to conquer the Mediterranean town where the fearsome French emperor was born.

Prince Charles Napoleon, who traces his roots back to the general who made Europe quake, has plunged into the race to be mayor of Corsica's capital, Ajaccio.

Brushing off doubts about whether a newcomer to the island's murky politics can triumph over Ajaccio's established patriarchs, Napoleon hopes that popular passion for his ancestor will help sweep him to victory.

'Corsica is my country, Ajaccio is my town. It's logical that I should want to stand here,' he said from his Ajaccio apartment.

'Half the streets in this town bear my name - that makes it even more logical.'

But while residents enjoy boasting of the glories of their island's favourite son, many doubt whether the great, great grandson of the emperor's brother, Jerome, will be able to wean the town from its dependence on tourism and create jobs.

Unperturbed by the stony stares from the town's statues of the legendary general, rival candidates dismiss Napoleon as a side-show who stands no chance of winning.

One thing is certain - Charles Napoleon will certainly need a dose of the warlike spirit that drove his ancestor to conquer much of Europe in the early years of the 19th century.

But he bristles at suggestions that he might have inherited the personality traits of a warlord with a monumental ego whose conquering prowess is an enduring source of Gallic pride.

'Everybody is born with the name their parents give them - but people should ask the question about what they do with it,' Napoleon said, relaxing barefoot on his leather sofa.

The 49-year-old has spent much of his life outside Corsica as a government official and businessman, but he said he had promoted local causes - exporting the island's chestnut beer and promoting its traditional polyphonic chants abroad.

'My notoriety could serve the island - it could help it become more open to the outside world,' he said.

Drawing himself to his impressive height - he would tower above the diminutive emperor - and stepping onto a balcony overlooking the azure waters of Ajaccio's glistening bay, Napoleon said he wanted to lead its people to a new destiny. …