Chirac in 1999
|President of France|
17 May 1995 – 16 May 2007
|Prime Minister||Alain Juppé|
Dominique de Villepin
|Preceded by||François Mitterrand|
|Succeeded by||Nicolas Sarkozy|
|Prime Minister of France|
20 March 1986 – 10 May 1988
|Preceded by||Laurent Fabius|
|Succeeded by||Michel Rocard|
27 May 1974 – 26 August 1976
|President||Valéry Giscard d'Estaing|
|Preceded by||Pierre Messmer|
|Succeeded by||Raymond Barre|
|Mayor of Paris|
20 March 1977 – 16 May 1995
|Preceded by||Office re-established|
|Succeeded by||Jean Tiberi|
|President of Rally for the Republic|
5 December 1976 – 4 November 1994
|Preceded by||Office established|
|Succeeded by||Alain Juppé|
|Minister of the Interior|
27 February 1974 – 28 May 1974
|Prime Minister||Pierre Messmer|
|Preceded by||Raymond Marcellin|
|Succeeded by||Michel Poniatowski|
|Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development|
7 July 1972 – 27 February 1974
|Prime Minister||Pierre Messmer|
|Preceded by||Michel Cointat|
|Succeeded by||Raymond Marcellin|
|Minister for Parliamentary Relations|
7 January 1971 – 5 July 1972
|Prime Minister||Jacques Chaban-Delmas|
|Preceded by||Roger Frey|
|Succeeded by||Robert Boulin|
|President of the Corrèze General Council|
15 March 1970 – 25 March 1979
|Preceded by||Elie Rouby|
|Succeeded by||Georges Debat|
Jacques René Chirac
29 November 1932
Paris, French Third Republic
|Political party||Communist Party (Before 1962)|
Union for the New Republic (1962–1968)
Union of Democrats for the Republic (1968–1971)
Rally for the Republic (1971–2002)
Union for a Popular Movement (2002–2007)
Bernadette de Courcel (m. 1956)
|Alma mater||Sciences Po|
École nationale d'administration
|Years of service||1954–1957|
Jacques René Chirac (UK: // SHEER-ak, US: // (listen) sheer-AHK, French: [ʒak ʁəne ʃiʁak] (listen); born 29 November 1932) is a French politician who served as President of France and ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra from 1995 to 2007. Chirac previously was Prime Minister of France from 1974 to 1976 and from 1986 to 1988, as well as Mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995.
After completing his degree at Sciences Po, a term at Harvard University, and the École nationale d'administration, Chirac began his career as a high-level civil servant, and entered politics shortly after. Chirac occupied various senior positions, including Minister of Agriculture and Minister of the Interior. Chirac's internal policies initially included lower tax rates, the removal of price controls, strong punishment for crime and terrorism, and business privatisation. After pursuing these policies in his second term as Prime Minister, he changed his views. He argued for more socially responsible economic policies, and was elected President in the 1995 presidential election with 52.6% of the vote in the second round, beating Socialist Lionel Jospin, after campaigning on a platform of healing the "social rift" (fracture sociale). Then, Chirac's economic policies, based on dirigisme, allowing for state-directed investment, stood in opposition to the laissez-faire policies of the United Kingdom under the ministries of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, which Chirac famously described as "Anglo-Saxon ultraliberalism".
He is also known for his stand against the American-led assault on Iraq, his recognition of the collaborationist French Government's role in deporting Jews, and his reduction of the presidential term from 7 years to 5 through a referendum in 2000. At the 2002 French presidential election, he won 82.2% of the vote in the second round against the far-right candidate, Jean-Marie Le Pen. During his second term, however, he had a very low approval rating, and was considered one of the least popular presidents in modern French history.
On 15 December 2011, the Paris court declared Chirac guilty of diverting public funds and abusing public confidence, and gave him a two-year suspended prison sentence.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Early political career
- 3 Mayor of Paris (1977–1995)
- 4 Governmental opposition
- 5 Presidency (1995–2007)
- 5.1 First term: 1995–2002
- 5.2 Second term: 2002–07
- 6 Post-presidency
- 7 Popular culture
- 8 Controversies
- 9 Personal life
- 10 Academic works
- 11 Political career
- 12 Ministries
- 13 Honours
- 14 Awards and recognition
- 15 Publications
- 16 Styles of address
- 17 See also
- 18 References
- 19 Further reading
- 20 External links
Early life and education
Family background and marriage: 1932–56
Chirac, born in the Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire clinic (Paris Ve), is the son of Abel François Marie Chirac (1898–1968), a successful executive for an aircraft company, and Marie-Louise Valette (1902–1973), a housewife. His great grandparents on both sides were peasants, but his two grandfathers were teachers from Sainte-Féréole in Corrèze. According to Chirac, his name "originates from the langue d'oc, that of the troubadours, therefore that of poetry". He is a Roman Catholic.
Chirac was an only child (his elder sister, Jacqueline, died in infancy before his birth). He was educated in Paris at the Cours Hattemer, a private school. He then attended the Lycée Carnot and the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. After his baccalauréat, he served for three months as a sailor on a coal-transporter.
In 1956, he married Bernadette Chodron de Courcel, with whom he had two daughters: Laurence (born 4 March 1958, deceased 14 April 2016) and Claude (6 December 1962). Claude has long worked as a public relations assistant and personal adviser, while Laurence, who suffered from anorexia nervosa in her youth, did not participate in the political activities of her father. Chirac is the grandfather of Martin Rey-Chirac by the relationship of Claude with French judoka Thierry Rey. Jacques and Bernadette Chirac also have a foster daughter, Anh Dao Traxel.
Education and early career: 1956–62
Inspired by General Charles de Gaulle, Chirac started to pursue a civil service career in the 1950s. During this period, he joined the French Communist Party, sold copies of L'Humanité, and took part in meetings of a communist cell. In 1950, he signed the Soviet-inspired Stockholm Appeal for the abolition of nuclear weapons – which led him to be questioned when he applied for his first visa to the United States.
In 1953, after graduating from the Paris Institute of Political Studies, he attended Harvard University's summer school, before entering the ENA, the Grande école National School of Administration, which trains France's top civil servants, in 1957.
Chirac trained as a reserve military officer in armoured cavalry at Saumur, where he was ranked first in his year. He then volunteered to fight in the Algerian War, using personal connections to be sent despite the reservations of his superiors. His superiors did not want to make him an officer because they suspected he had communist leanings. After leaving the ENA in 1959, he became a civil servant in the Court of Auditors.
Early political career
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The "bulldozer": 1962–71
In April 1962, Chirac was appointed head of the personal staff of Prime Minister Georges Pompidou. This appointment launched Chirac's political career. Pompidou considered Chirac his protégé, and referred to him as "my bulldozer" for his skill at getting things done. The nickname "Le Bulldozer" caught on in French political circles, where it also referred to his abrasive manner. As late as the 1988 presidential election, Chirac maintained this reputation. In 1995 an anonymous British diplomat said Chirac "cuts through the crap and comes straight to the point... It's refreshing, although you have to put your seat belt on when you work with him".
At Pompidou's suggestion, Chirac ran as a Gaullist for a seat in the National Assembly in 1967. He was elected deputy for his home Corrèze département, a stronghold of the left. This surprising victory in the context of a Gaullist ebb permitted him to enter the government as Minister of Social Affairs. Although Chirac was well-situated in de Gaulle's entourage, being related by marriage to the general's sole companion at the time of the Appeal of 18 June 1940, he was more of a "Pompidolian" than a "Gaullist". When student and worker unrest rocked France in May 1968, Chirac played a central role in negotiating a truce. Then, as state secretary of economy (1968–1971), he worked closely with Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, who headed the ministry of economy and finance.
Cabinet minister: 1971–74
After some months in the ministry for Relations with Parliament, Chirac's first high-level post came in 1972 when he became Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development under Pompidou, who had been elected president in 1969, after de Gaulle retired. Chirac quickly earned a reputation as a champion of French farmers' interests, and first attracted international attention when he assailed U.S., West German, and European Commission agricultural policies which conflicted with French interests.
On 27 February 1974, after the resignation of Raymond Marcellin, Chirac was appointed Minister of the Interior. On 21 March 1974, he cancelled the SAFARI project due to privacy concerns after its existence was revealed by Le Monde. From March 1974, he was entrusted by President Pompidou with preparations for the presidential election then scheduled for 1976. These elections were moved forward because of Pompidou's sudden death on 2 April 1974.
Chirac vainly attempted to rally Gaullists behind Prime Minister Pierre Messmer. Jacques Chaban-Delmas announced his candidacy in spite of the disapproval of the "Pompidolians". Chirac and others published the call of the 43 in favour of Giscard d'Estaing, the leader of the non-Gaullist part of the parliamentary majority. Giscard d'Estaing was elected as Pompidou's successor after France's most competitive election campaign in years. In return, the new president chose Chirac to lead the cabinet.
Prime Minister of Giscard: 1974–76
When Valéry Giscard d'Estaing became president, he nominated Chirac as prime minister on 27 May 1974, in order to reconcile the "Giscardian" and "non-Giscardian" factions of the parliamentary majority. At the age of 41, Chirac stood out as the very model of the jeunes loups ("young wolves") of French politics, but he was faced with the hostility of the "Barons of Gaullism" who considered him a traitor for his role during the previous presidential campaign. In December 1974, he took the lead of the Union of Democrats for the Republic (UDR) against the will of its more senior personalities.
As prime minister, Chirac quickly set about persuading the Gaullists that, despite the social reforms proposed by President Giscard, the basic tenets of Gaullism, such as national and European independence, would be retained. Chirac was advised by Pierre Juillet and Marie-France Garaud, two former advisers of Pompidou. These two organised the campaign against Chaban-Delmas in 1974. They advocated a clash with Giscard d'Estaing because they thought his policy bewildered the conservative electorate. Citing Giscard's unwillingness to give him authority, Chirac resigned as Prime Minister in 1976. He proceeded to build up his political base among France's several conservative parties, with a goal of reconstituting the Gaullist UDR into a Neo-Gaullist group, the Rally for the Republic (RPR). Chirac's first tenure as prime minister was also an arguably progressive one, with improvements in both the minimum wage and the social welfare system carried out during the course of his premiership.
Mayor of Paris (1977–1995)
After his departure from the cabinet, Chirac wanted to gain the leadership of the political right, in order to gain the French presidency in the future. The RPR was conceived as an electoral machine against President Giscard d'Estaing. Paradoxically, Chirac benefited from Giscard's decision to create the office of mayor in Paris, which had been in abeyance since the 1871 Commune, because the leaders of the Third Republic (1871–1940) feared that having municipal control of the capital would give the mayor too much power. In 1977, Chirac stood as a candidate against Michel d'Ornano, a close friend of the president, and he won. As mayor of Paris, Chirac's political influence grew. He held this post until 1995.
Chirac supporters point out that, as mayor, he provided programmes to help the elderly, people with disabilities, and single mothers, and introduced the street-cleaning Motocrotte, while providing incentives for businesses to stay in Paris. His opponents contend that he installed "clientelist" policies.
Struggle for the right-wing leadership: 1976–86
In 1978, he attacked the pro-European policy of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (VGE), and made a nationalist turn with the December 1978 Call of Cochin, initiated by his counsellors Marie-France Garaud and Pierre Juillet, which had first been called by Pompidou. Hospitalised in Cochin hospital after a crash, he declared that "as always about the drooping of France, the pro-foreign party acts with its peaceable and reassuring voice". He appointed Yvan Blot, an intellectual who would later join the National Front, as director of his campaigns for the 1979 European election. After the poor results of the election, Chirac broke with Garaud and Juillet. Vexed Marie-France Garaud stated: "We thought Chirac was made of the same marble of which statues are carved in, we perceive he's of the same faience bidets are made of." His rivalry with Giscard d'Estaing intensified. Although it has been often interpreted by historians as the struggle between two rival French right-wing families (the Bonapartists, represented by Chirac, and the Orleanists, represented by VGE), both figures in fact were members of the liberal, Orleanist tradition, according to historian Alain-Gérard Slama. But the eviction of the Gaullist barons and of President Giscard d'Estaing convinced Chirac to assume a strong neo-Gaullist stance.
Chirac made his first run for president against Giscard d'Estaing in the 1981 election, thus splitting the centre-right vote. He was eliminated in the first round with 18% of the vote. He reluctantly supported Giscard in the second round. He refused to give instructions to the RPR voters but said that he supported the incumbent president "in a private capacity", which was interpreted as almost like de facto support of the Socialist Party's (PS) candidate, François Mitterrand, who was elected by a broad majority.
Giscard has always blamed Chirac for his defeat. He was told by Mitterrand, before his death, that the latter had dined with Chirac before the election. Chirac told the Socialist candidate that he wanted to "get rid of Giscard". In his memoirs, Giscard wrote that between the two rounds, he phoned the RPR headquarters. He passed himself off as a right-wing voter by changing his voice. The RPR employee advised him "certainly do not vote Giscard!" After 1981, the relationship between the two men became tense, with Giscard, even though he had been in the same government coalition as Chirac, criticising Chirac's actions openly.
After the May 1981 presidential election, the right also lost the subsequent legislative election that year. However, as Giscard had been knocked out, Chirac appeared as the principal leader of the right-wing opposition. Due to his attacks against the economic policy of the Socialist government, he gradually aligned himself with prevailing economically liberal opinion, even though it did not correspond with Gaullist doctrine. While the far-right National Front grew, taking advantage of the proportional representation electoral system which had been introduced for the 1986 legislative elections, he signed an electoral pact with the Giscardian (and more or less Christian Democratic) party Union for French Democracy (UDF).
Prime Minister of Mitterrand: 1986–88
When the RPR/UDF right-wing coalition won a slight majority in the National Assembly in the 1986 election, Mitterrand (PS) appointed Chirac prime minister (though many in Mitterrand's inner circle lobbied him to choose Jacques Chaban-Delmas instead). This unprecedented power-sharing arrangement, known as cohabitation, gave Chirac the lead in domestic affairs. However, it is generally conceded that Mitterrand used the areas granted to the President of the Republic, or "reserved domains" of the Presidency, Defence and Foreign Affairs, to belittle his Prime Minister.
Chirac's cabinet sold many public companies, renewing the liberalisation initiated under Laurent Fabius's Socialist government of 1984–1986, and abolished the solidarity tax on wealth (ISF), a symbolic tax on those with high value assets introduced by Mitterrand's government. Elsewhere, the plan for university reform (plan Devaquet) caused a crisis in 1986 when a student called Malik Oussekine was killed by the police, leading to massive demonstrations and the proposal's withdrawal. It has been said during other student crises that this event strongly affected Jacques Chirac, who was afterwards careful about possible police violence during such demonstrations (e.g., maybe explaining part of the decision to "promulgate without applying" the First Employment Contract (CPE) after large student demonstrations against it).
One of his first acts concerning foreign policy was to call back Jacques Foccart (1913–1997), who had been de Gaulle's and his successors' leading counsellor for African matters, called by journalist Stephen Smith the "father of all "networks" on the continent, at the time [in 1986] aged 72." Jacques Foccart, who had also co-founded the Gaullist SAC militia (dissolved by Mitterrand in 1982 after the Auriol massacre) along with Charles Pasqua, and who was a key component of the "Françafrique" system, was again called to the Elysée Palace when Chirac won the 1995 presidential election. Furthermore, confronted by anti-colonialist movements in New Caledonia, Prime Minister Chirac ordered a military intervention against the separatists in the Ouvéa cave, leading to several tragic deaths. He allegedly refused any alliance with Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National.
Crossing the desert: 1988–95
Chirac ran against Mitterrand for a second time in the 1988 election. He obtained 20 percent of the vote in the first round, but lost the second with only 46 percent. He resigned from the cabinet and the right lost the next legislative election.
For the first time, his leadership over the RPR was challenged. Charles Pasqua and Philippe Séguin criticised his abandonment of Gaullist doctrines. On the right, a new generation of politicians, the "renovation men", accused Chirac and Giscard of being responsible for the electoral defeats. In 1992, convinced a man could not become President whilst advocating anti-European policies, he called for a "yes" vote in the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty, against the opinion of Pasqua, Séguin and a majority of the RPR voters, who chose to vote "no".
While he still was mayor of Paris (since 1977), Chirac went to Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire) where he supported President Houphouët-Boigny (1960–1993), although the latter was being called a "thief" by the local population. Chirac then declared that multipartism was a "kind of luxury."
Nevertheless, the right won the 1993 legislative election. Chirac announced that he did not want to come back as prime minister, suggesting the appointment of Edouard Balladur, who had promised that he would not run for the presidency against Chirac in 1995. However, benefiting from positive polls, Balladur decided to be a presidential candidate, with the support of a majority of right-wing politicians. Balladur broke from Chirac along with a number of friends and allies, including Charles Pasqua, Nicolas Sarkozy, etc., who supported his candidacy. A small group of "fidels" would remain with Chirac, including Alain Juppé and Jean-Louis Debré. When Nicolas Sarkozy became President in 2007, Juppé was one of the few "chiraquiens" to serve in François Fillon's government.
First term: 1995–2002
During the 1995 presidential campaign, Chirac criticised the "sole thought" (pensée unique) of neoliberalism represented by his challenger on the right and promised to reduce the "social fracture", placing himself more to the centre and thus forcing Balladur to radicalise himself. Ultimately, he obtained more votes than Balladur in the first round (20.8 percent), and then defeated the Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin in the second round (52.6 percent).
Chirac was elected on a platform of tax cuts and job programmes, but his policies did little to ease the labour strikes during his first months in office. On the domestic front, neo-liberal economic austerity measures introduced by Chirac and his conservative prime minister Alain Juppé, including budgetary cutbacks, proved highly unpopular. At about the same time, it became apparent that Juppé and others had obtained preferential conditions for public housing, as well as other perks. At the year's end Chirac faced major workers' strikes which turned itself, in November–December 1995, into a general strike, one of the largest since May 1968. The demonstrations were largely pitted against Juppé's plan on the reform of pensions, and led to the dismissal of the latter.
Shortly after taking office, Chirac – undaunted by international protests by environmental groups – insisted upon the resumption of nuclear tests at Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia in 1995, a few months before signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Reacting to criticism, Chirac said, "You only have to look back at 1935...There were people then who were against France arming itself, and look what happened." On 1 February 1996, Chirac announced that France had ended "once and for all" its nuclear testing, intending to accede to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Elected as President of the Republic, he refused to discuss the existence of French military bases in Africa, despite requests by the Ministry of Defence and the Quai d'Orsay (Ministry of Foreign Affairs). The French Army thus remained in Côte d'Ivoire as well as in Omar Bongo's Gabon.
State responsibility for the roundup of Jews
Prior to 1995, the French government had maintained that the French Republic had been dismantled when Philippe Pétain instituted a new French State during World War II and that the Republic had been re-established when the war was over. It was not for France, therefore, to apologise for the roundup of Jews for deportation that happened while the Republic had not existed and was carried out by a state, Vichy France, which it did not recognise. President François Mitterrand had reiterated this position: "The Republic had nothing to do with this. I do not believe France is responsible," he said in September 1994.
Chirac was the first President of France to take responsibility for the deportation of Jews during the Vichy regime. In a speech made on 16 July 1995 at the site of the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup, where 13,000 Jews had been held for deportation to concentration camps in July 1942, Chirac said, "France, on that day, committed the irreparable". Those responsible for the roundup were "4500 policemen and gendarmes, French, under the authority of their leaders [who] obeyed the demands of the Nazis. ... the criminal folly of the occupiers was seconded by the French, by the French State".
"Cohabitation" with Jospin
In 1997, Chirac dissolved parliament for early legislative elections in a gamble designed to bolster support for his conservative economic program. But instead, it created an uproar, and his power was weakened by the subsequent backlash. The Socialist Party (PS), joined by other parties on the left, soundly defeated Chirac's conservative allies, forcing Chirac into a new period of cohabitation with Jospin as prime minister (1997–2002), which lasted five years.
Cohabitation significantly weakened the power of Chirac's presidency. The French president, by a constitutional convention, only controls foreign and military policy— and even then, allocation of funding is under the control of Parliament and under the significant influence of the prime minister. Short of dissolving parliament and calling for new elections, the president was left with little power to influence public policy regarding crime, the economy, and public services. Chirac seized the occasion to periodically criticise Jospin's government.
Nevertheless, his position was weakened by scandals about the financing of RPR by Paris municipality. In 2001, the left, represented by Bertrand Delanoë (PS), won a majority on the city council of the capital. Jean Tiberi, Chirac's successor at the Paris city hall, was forced to resign after having been put under investigations in June 1999 on charges of trafic d'influences in the HLMs of Paris affairs (related to the illegal financing of the RPR). Tiberi was finally expelled from the Rally for the Republic, Chirac's party, on 12 October 2000, declaring to the Figaro magazine on 18 November 2000: "Jacques Chirac is not my friend anymore". After the publication of the Jean-Claude Méry by Le Monde on 22 September 2000, in which Jean-Claude Méry, in charge of the RPR's financing, directly accused Chirac of organizing the network, and of having been physically present on 5 October 1986, when Méry gave in cash 5 million Francs, which came from companies who had benefited from state deals, to Michel Roussin, personal secretary (directeur de cabinet) of Chirac, Chirac refused to attend court in response to his summons by judge Eric Halphen, and the highest echelons of the French justice system declared that he could not be inculpated while in office.
During his two terms, he increased the Elysee Palace's total budget by 105 percent (to €90 million, whereas 20 years before it was the equivalent of €43.7 million). He doubled the number of presidential cars – to 61 cars and seven scooters in the Palace's garage. He has hired 145 extra employees – the total number of the people he employed simultaneously was 963.
As the Supreme Commander of the French armed forces, he reduced the French military budget, as did his predecessor. At the end of his first term it accounted for three percent of GDP. In 1998 the French aircraft carrier Clemenceau (R98) was decommissioned after 37 years of service, and another aircraft carrier was decommissioned two years later after 37 years of service, leaving the French Navy with no aircraft carrier until 2001, when Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier was commissioned. He also reduced expenditures on nuclear weapons and the French nuclear arsenal was reduced to include 350 warheads, compared to the Russian nuclear arsenal that consists of 16,000 warheads. He also published a plan which assumes reducing the number of fighters the French military has by 30.
After François Mitterrand left office in 1995, Chirac began a rapprochement with NATO by joining the Military Committee and attempting to negotiate a return to the integrated military command, which failed after the French demand for parity with the United States went unmet. The possibility of a further attempt foundered after Chirac was forced into cohabitation with a Socialist-led cabinet between 1997–2002, then poor Franco-American relations after the French UN veto threat over Iraq in 2003 made transatlantic negotiations impossible.
On July 25, 2000, as Chirac and the first lady were returning from the G7 Summit in Okinawa, Japan, they were nearly killed by Air France Flight 4590 after they landed at Charles de Gaulle International Airport. The first couple were in an Air France Boeing 747 taxiing toward the terminal when the jet had to stop and wait for Flight 4590 to take off. The departing plane, an Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde, ran over a strip of metal on takeoff that punctured its left fuel tank and sliced electrical wires near the left landing gear. The sequence of events ignited a massive fire and caused the Concorde to veer left on its takeoff roll. As it reached takeoff speed and lifted off the ground, it came within 30 feet of hitting Chirac's 747. The now famous photograph of Flight 4590 ablaze, the only picture taken of the Concorde on fire, was snapped by passenger Toshihiko Sato on Chirac's jetliner.
Second term: 2002–07
At the age of 69, Chirac faced his fourth presidential campaign in 2002. He received 20% of the vote in the first ballot of the presidential elections in April 2002. It had been expected that he would face incumbent prime minister Lionel Jospin (PS) in the second round of elections; instead, Chirac faced controversial far right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen of National Front (FN) who came in 200,000 votes ahead of Jospin. All parties outside the National Front (except for Lutte ouvrière) called for opposing Le Pen, even if it meant voting for Chirac. The 14-day period between the two rounds of voting was marked by demonstrations against Le Pen and slogans such as "Vote for the crook, not for the fascist" or "Vote with a clothespin on your nose". Chirac won re-election by a landslide, with 82 percent of the vote on the second ballot. However, Chirac became increasingly unpopular during his second term. According to a July 2005 poll, 32 percent judged Chirac favourably and 63 percent unfavorably. In 2006, The Economist wrote that Chirac "is the most unpopular occupant of the Elysée Palace in the fifth republic's history."
As the left-wing Socialist Party was in thorough disarray following Jospin's defeat, Chirac reorganised politics on the right, establishing a new party – initially called the Union of the Presidential Majority, then the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). The RPR had broken down; a number of members had formed Eurosceptic breakaways. While the Giscardian liberals of the Union for French Democracy (UDF) had moved to the right, the UMP won the parliamentary elections that followed the presidential poll with ease.
Despite past opposition to state intervention the Chirac government approved a €2.8 billion euro aid package to troubled manufacturing giant Alstom. In October 2004, Chirac signed a trade agreement with PRC President Hu Jintao where Alstom was given €1 billion euro in contracts and promises of future investment in China.
On 14 July 2002, during Bastille Day celebrations, Chirac survived an assassination attempt by a lone gunman with a rifle hidden in a guitar case. The would-be assassin fired a shot toward the presidential motorcade, before being overpowered by bystanders. The gunman, Maxime Brunerie, underwent psychiatric testing; the violent far-right group with which he was associated, Unité Radicale, was then administratively dissolved.
Along with Vladimir Putin (Chirac called Vladimir Putin "a personal friend"), Hu Jintao, and Gerhard Schröder, Chirac emerged as a leading voice against George W. Bush and Tony Blair in 2003 during the organisation and deployment of American and British forces participating in a military coalition to forcibly remove the then current government of Iraq controlled by the Ba'ath Party under the leadership of Saddam Hussein which resulted in the 2003–2011 Iraq War. Despite intense British and American pressure, Chirac threatened to veto, at that given point, a resolution in the UN Security Council that would authorise the use of military force to rid Iraq of alleged weapons of mass destruction, and rallied other governments to his position. "Iraq today does not represent an immediate threat that justifies an immediate war", Chirac said on 18 March 2003. Chirac was then the target of various American and British commentators supporting the decisions of Bush and Blair. Future Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin acquired much of his popularity for his speech against the war at the United Nations (UN).
On 19 January 2006, Chirac said that France was prepared to launch a nuclear strike against any country that sponsors a terrorist attack against French interests. He said his country's nuclear arsenal had been reconfigured to include the ability to make a tactical strike in retaliation for terrorism.
Chirac criticized the Israeli offensive into Lebanon on 14 July 2006. However, Israeli Army Radio later reported that Chirac had secretly told Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that France would support an Israeli invasion of Syria and the overthrow of the government of President Bashar al-Assad, promising to veto any moves against Israel in the United Nations or European Union.
In July 2006, the G8 met to discuss international energy concerns. Despite the rising awareness of global warming issues, the G8 focused on "energy security" issues. Chirac continued[when?] to be the voice within the G8 summit meetings to support international action to curb global warming and climate change concerns. Chirac warned that "humanity is dancing on a volcano" and called for serious action by the world's leading industrialised nations.
Chirac requested the Landau-report (published in September 2004) and combined with the Report of the Technical Group on Innovative Financing Mechanisms formulated upon request by the Heads of State of Brazil, Chile, France and Spain (issued in December 2004), these documents present various opportunities for innovative financing mechanisms while equally stressing the advantages (stability and predictability) of tax-based models. UNITAID project was born. Today the organisation executive board is chaired by Philippe Douste-Blazy.
2005 referendum on TCE
On 29 May 2005, a referendum was held in France to decide whether the country should ratify the proposed treaty for a Constitution of the European Union (TCE). The result was a victory for the No campaign, with 55 percent of voters rejecting the treaty on a turnout of 69 percent, dealing a devastating blow to Chirac and the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party, and to part of the centre-left which had supported the TCE. Following the referendum defeat, Chirac replaced his Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin with Domenique de Villepin. In an address to the nation, Chirac has declared that the new cabinet's top priority would be to curb unemployment, which was consistently hovering above 10 percent, calling for a "national mobilisation" to that effect.
2005 civil unrest and CPE protests
Following major student protests in spring 2006, which followed civil unrest in autumn 2005 after the death of two young boys in Clichy-sous-Bois, one of the poorest French communes located in Paris' suburbs, Chirac retracted the proposed First Employment Contract (CPE) by "promulgating [it] without applying it", an unheard-of – and, some claim, illegal – move intended to appease the protesters while giving the appearance of not making a volte-face regarding the contract, and therefore to continue his support for his Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.
In early September 2005, he suffered an event that his doctors described as a 'vascular incident'. It was reported as a 'minor stroke' or a mini-stroke (also known as a transient ischemic attack). He recovered and returned to his duties soon after.
In a pre-recorded television broadcast aired on 11 March 2007, Jacques Chirac announced, in a widely predicted move, that he would not choose to seek a third term as France's president. (In 2000 the constitution had been amended to reduce the length of Presidents' terms to five years, so Chirac's second term was shorter than his first.) "My whole life has been committed to serving France, and serving peace", Chirac said, adding that he would find new ways to serve France after leaving office. He did not explain the reasons for his decision. Chirac did not, during the broadcast, endorse any of the candidates running for election, but did devote several minutes of his talk to a plea against extremist politics that was considered a thinly disguised invocation to voters not to vote for Jean-Marie Le Pen and a recommendation to Nicolas Sarkozy not to orient his campaign so as to include themes traditionally associated with Le Pen.
Shortly after leaving office, he launched the Fondation Chirac in June 2008. Since then it has been striving for peace through five advocacy programmes: conflict prevention, access to water and sanitation, access to quality medicines and healthcare, access to land resources, and preservation of cultural diversity. It supports field projects that involve local people and provide concrete and innovative solutions. Chirac chairs the jury for the Prize for Conflict Prevention awarded every year by his foundation.
As a former President, he is entitled to a lifetime pension and personal security protection, and is ex-officio a member for life of France's constitutional council. He sat for the first time on the Council on 15 November 2007, six months after leaving the French Presidency. Immediately after Sarkozy's victory, Chirac moved into a 180 square metre duplex on the Quai Voltaire in Paris lent to him by the family of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. During the Didier Schuller affair, the latter accused Hariri of having participated in illegal funding of the RPR's political campaigns, but the judge closed the case without further investigations.
In Volume 2 of his memoirs published in June 2011, Chirac mocked his successor Nicolas Sarkozy as "irritable, rash, impetuous, disloyal, ungrateful, and un-French". Chirac wrote that he considered firing Sarkozy previously, and conceded responsibility in allowing Jean-Marie Le Pen to advance in 2002.
A poll conducted in 2010 suggested he was the most admired political figure in France, while Sarkozy was 32nd.
On 11 April 2008, Chirac's office announced that he had undergone successful surgery to fit a pacemaker. In January 2009, it was reported that Chirac had been hospitalised after being attacked by his pet Maltese poodle. According to Chirac's wife Bernadette, the dog, named Sumo, had a history of unpredictable and vicious behaviour, and had previously been medicated with antidepressants in an attempt to control it.
Chirac is losing memory and suffers from a frail health. As President, he suffered a stroke in 2005. In February 2014 he was admitted to hospital because of pains related to gout. On 10 December 2015, Chirac was hospitalized in Paris for undisclosed reasons, although his state of health didn't "give any cause for concern", he remained for about a week in ICU. According to his son-in-law Frederic Salat-Baroux, Chirac was again hospitalised in Paris with a lung infection on 18 September 2016.
Impact on French popular culture
Because of Jacques Chirac's long career in visible government positions, he has often been parodied or caricatured: Young Jacques Chirac is the basis of a young, dashing bureaucrat character in the 1976 Asterix comic strip album Obelix and Co., proposing methods to quell Gallic unrest to elderly, old-style Roman politicians. Chirac was also featured in Le Bêbête Show as an overexcited, jumpy character.
Jacques Chirac is a favorite character of Les Guignols de l'Info, a satiric latex puppet show. He was once portrayed as a rather likable, though overexcited, character; however, following the corruption allegations, he has been shown as a kind of dilettante and incompetent who pilfers public money and lies through his teeth. His character for a while developed a superhero alter ego, Super Menteur ("Super Liar") in order to get him out of embarrassing situations. Because of his alleged improprieties, he was lambasted in a song Chirac en prison ("Chirac in prison") by French punk band Les Wampas, with a video clip made by the Guignols.
Portrayals in film
At the invitation of Saddam Hussein (then vice-president of Iraq, but de facto dictator), Chirac made an official visit to Baghdad in 1975. Saddam approved a deal granting French oil companies a number of privileges plus a 23-percent share of Iraqi oil. As part of this deal, France sold Iraq the Osirak MTR nuclear reactor, designed to test nuclear materials.
The Israeli Air Force alleged that the reactor's imminent commissioning was a threat to its security, and pre-emptively bombed the Osirak reactor on 7 June 1981, provoking considerable anger from French officials and the United Nations Security Council.
The Osirak deal became a controversy again in 2002–2003, when an international military coalition led by the United States invaded Iraq and forcibly removed Hussein's government from power. France led several other European countries in an effort to prevent the invasion. The Osirak deal was then used by parts of the American media to criticise the Chirac-led opposition to starting a war in Iraq, despite French involvement in the Gulf War.
Conviction for corruption
Chirac has been named in several cases of alleged corruption that occurred during his term as mayor, some of which have led to felony convictions of some politicians and aides. However, a controversial judicial decision in 1999 granted Chirac immunity while he was president of France. He refused to testify on these matters, arguing that it would be incompatible with his presidential functions. Investigations concerning the running of Paris's city hall, the number of whose municipal employees increased by 25% from 1977 to 1995 (with 2,000 out of approximately 35,000 coming from the Corrèze region where Chirac had held his seat as deputy), as well as a lack of financial transparency (marchés publics) and the communal debt, were thwarted by the legal impossibility of questioning him as president. The conditions of the privatisation of the Parisian water system acquired very cheaply by the Générale and the Lyonnaise des Eaux, then directed by Jérôme Monod, a close friend of Chirac, were also criticised. Furthermore, the satirical newspaper Le Canard enchaîné revealed the astronomical "food expenses" paid by the Parisian municipality (€15 million a year according to the Canard), expenses managed by Roger Romani (who allegedly destroyed all archives of the period 1978–93 during night raids in 1999–2000). Thousands of people were invited each year to receptions in the Paris city hall, while many political, media and artistic personalities were hosted in private flats owned by the city.
Chirac's immunity from prosecution ended in May 2007, when he left office as president. In November 2007 a preliminary charge of misuse of public funds was filed against him. Chirac is said to be the first former French head of state to be formally placed under investigation for a crime. On 30 October 2009, a judge ordered Chirac to stand trial on embezzlement charges, dating back to his time as mayor of Paris.
On 7 March 2011, he went on trial on charges of diverting public funds, accused of giving fictional city jobs to twenty-eight activists from his political party while serving as the mayor of Paris (1977–95). Along with Chirac, nine others stood trial in two separate cases, one dealing with fictional jobs for 21 people and the other with jobs for the remaining seven. The President of Union for a Popular Movement, who later served as France's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alain Juppé, was sentenced to a 14-month suspended prison sentence for the same case in 2004.
On 15 December 2011, Chirac was found guilty and given a suspended sentence of two years. He was convicted of diverting public funds, abuse of trust and illegal conflict of interest. The suspended sentence meant he did not have to go to prison, and took into account his age, health, and status as a former head of state. He did not attend his trial, since medical doctors deemed that his neurological problems damaged his memory. His defence team decided not to appeal.
The Clearstream Affair
During April and May 2006, Chirac's administration was beset by a crisis as his chosen Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, was accused of asking Philippe Rondot, a top level French spy, for a secret investigation into Villepin's chief political rival, Nicolas Sarkozy, in 2004. This matter has been called the second Clearstream Affair. On 10 May 2006, following a Cabinet meeting, Chirac made a rare television appearance to try to protect Villepin from the scandal and to debunk allegations that Chirac himself had set up a Japanese bank account containing 300 million francs in 1992 as Mayor of Paris. Chirac said that "The Republic is not a dictatorship of rumours, a dictatorship of calumny."
In 1954 Chirac presented The Development of the Port of New-Orleans, a short geography/economic thesis to the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), which he had entered three years before. The 182-page typewritten work, supervised by Professor Jean Chardonnet, is illustrated by photographs, sketches and diagrams.
President of the French Republic: 1995–2007. Reelected in 2002.
Member of the Constitutional Council of France: Since 2007.
Prime minister: 1974–76 (Resignation) / 1986–88.
Minister of Interior: March–May 1974.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development: 1972–74.
Minister of Relation with Parliament: 1971–72.
Secretary of State for Economy and Finance: 1968–71.
Secretary of State for Social Affairs: 1967–68.
Member of European Parliament: 1979–80 (Resignation). Elected in 1979.
National Assembly of France
Elected in 1967, reelected in 1968, 1973, 1976, 1981, 1986, 1988, 1993: Member for Corrèze: March–April 1967 (became Secretary of State in April 1967), reelected in 1968, 1973, but he remained a minister in 1976–1986 (became Prime Minister in 1986), 1988–95 (resigned to become President of the French Republic in 1995).
President of the General Council of Corrèze: 1970–1979. Reelected in 1973, 1976.
General councillor of Corrèze: 1968–88. Reelected in 1970, 1976, 1982.
Mayor of Paris: 1977–95 (Resignation, became President of the French Republic in 1995). Reelected in 1983, 1989.
Councillor of Paris: 1977–1995 (Resignation). Reelected in 1983, 1989.
Municipal councillor of Sainte-Féréole: 1965–77. Reelected in 1971.
President of the Rally for the Republic: 1976–94 (Resignation).
First Chirac ministry
(27 May 1974 – 25 August 1976)
- Jacques Chirac – Prime Minister
- Jean Sauvagnargues – Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Jacques Soufflet – Minister of Defence
- Michel Poniatowski – Minister of the Interior
- Jean-Pierre Fourcade – Minister of Economy and Finance
- Michel d'Ornano – Minister of Industry, Tourism, Posts, and Telecommunications
- Michel Durafour – Minister of Employment and Social Affairs
- Jean Lecanuet – Minister of Justice
- René Haby – Minister of National Education
- Simone Veil – Minister of Health
- Christian Bonnet – Minister of Agriculture
- Norbert Ségard – Minister of External Trade
- Robert Galley – Minister of Equipment
- Vincent Ansquer – Minister of Trade and Craft
- Pierre Abelin – Minister of Cooperation
- Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber – Minister of Reforms
- André Jarrot – Minister of Quality of Life
Second Chirac ministry
(20 March 1986 – 12 May 1988)
- Jacques Chirac – Prime Minister
- Jean-Bernard Raimond – Minister of Foreign Affairs
- André Giraud – Minister of Defence
- Charles Pasqua – Minister of the Interior
- Édouard Balladur – Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Economy, Finance, and Privatisation
- Alain Madelin – Minister of Industry, Tourism, Posts, and Telecommunications
- Philippe Séguin – Minister of Employment and Social Affairs
- Albin Chalandon – Minister of Justice
- René Monory – Minister of National Education
- François Léotard – Minister of Culture and Communications
- François Guillaume – Minister of Agriculture
- Bernard Pons – Minister of Overseas Departments and Territories
- Pierre Méhaignerie – Minister of Housing, Equipment, Regional Planning, and Transport
- André Rossinot – Minister for Relations with Parliament
- Michel Aurillac – Minister of Cooperation
|Grand Master & Grand Cross of the National Order of the Legion of Honour|
|Grand Master & Grand Cross of the National Order of Merit|
|Knight of the Order of the Black Star|
|Commandeur of the Order of Agricultural Merit|
|Knight of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres|
|Cross for Military Valour|
|North Africa Security and Order Operations Commemorative Medal|
Awards and recognition
- Ig Nobel prize for peace, for commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Hiroshima with atomic bomb tests in the Pacific (1996)
- State Prize of the Russian Federation (2007)
- Discours pour la France à l'heure du choix, Paris, ed. Stock, 1978
- La Lueur de l'espérance. Réflexion du soir pour le matin, Paris, ed. La Table ronde, 1978
- Oui à l'Europe (With Alain Berger), Paris, ed. Albatros, 1984
- Une ambition pour la France, Paris, ed. Albin Michel, 1988
- Une nouvelle France. Réflexions 1, Paris, ed. NiL, 1994
- La France pour tous, Paris, ed. NiL Éditions, 1995
- Mon combat pour la France, tome I, Paris, ed. Odile Jacob, 2006
- Le Développement du port de la Nouvelle-Orléans, Paris, ed. Presses universitaires du Nouveau Monde, 2007
- Mon combat pour la paix, tome II, Paris, ed. Odile Jacob, 2007
- Demain, il sera trop tard, Paris, ed. Desclée de Brouwer, 2008
- Mémoires : Tome I, Chaque pas doit être un but, Paris, ed. NiL, 2009
- Mémoires : Tome II, Le Temps présidentiel, Paris, ed. NiL Éditions, 2011
Styles of address
- Monsieur le Président de la République française (1995–2007)
- His Excellency The Sovereign Co-Prince of Andorra (1995–2007)
- Anh Dao Traxel
- List of national leaders
- Politics of France
- 1981 French presidential election
- 1988 French presidential election
- 1995 French presidential election
- 2002 French presidential election
- 2007 French presidential election
- Musée du Président Jacques Chirac
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Prime Minister Chirac, whose abrasive manner once earned him the nickname "the Bulldozer,"...
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- CIA – The World Factbook – Rank Order – Military expenditures – percent of GDP. Cia.gov. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
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- [dead link]
- David Rose. "Concorde: the unanswered questions". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
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- "Europe's bear problem". The Economist. 25 February 2010.
- Chirac: Nuclear Response to Terrorism Is Possible, The Washington Post, 20 January 2006
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- Public opinion polls on Jacques Chirac
- Biography at the Official Website of the Office of the French President
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- (in French) Mairie de Paris
- (in French) Biography and his election (2002)
- (in French) Some Jacques Chirac's quotations
- Jacques Chirac – A life in pictures photo essay
- Anne Applebaum, Farewell, Jacques Chirac, The Washington Post, 8 May 2007
- Latest news of UNITAID (initiated by Jacques Chirac) and today chaired Philippe Douste-Blazy
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