Jacques Chirac

"Chirac" redirects here. For other uses, see Chirac (disambiguation).
Jacques Chirac
President of France
In office
17 May 1995  16 May 2007
Prime Minister Alain Juppé
Lionel Jospin
Jean-Pierre Raffarin
Dominique de Villepin
Preceded by François Mitterrand
Succeeded by Nicolas Sarkozy
Co-Prince of Andorra
In office
17 May 1995  16 May 2007
Prime Minister Marc Forné Molné
Albert Pintat
Served with Joan Martí Alanis
Preceded by François Mitterrand
Succeeded by Nicolas Sarkozy
Prime Minister of France
In office
20 March 1986  10 May 1988
President François Mitterrand
Preceded by Laurent Fabius
Succeeded by Michel Rocard
In office
27 May 1974  26 August 1976
President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing
Preceded by Pierre Messmer
Succeeded by Raymond Barre
Mayor of Paris
In office
20 March 1977  16 May 1995
Preceded by Position re-established
Succeeded by Jean Tiberi
President of Rally for the Republic
In office
5 December 1976  4 November 1994
Jérôme Monod
Alain Devaquet
Bernard Pons
Jacques Toubon
Alain Juppé
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Alain Juppé
Minister of the Interior
In office
27 February 1974  28 May 1974
President Georges Pompidou
Prime Minister Pierre Messmer
Preceded by Raymond Marcellin
Succeeded by Michel Poniatowski
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
In office
7 July 1972  27 February 1974
President Georges Pompidou
Prime Minister Pierre Messmer
Preceded by Michel Cointat
Succeeded by Raymond Marcellin
Minister for Parliamentary Relations
In office
7 January 1971  5 July 1972
President Georges Pompidou
Prime Minister Jacques Chaban-Delmas
Preceded by Roger Frey
Succeeded by Robert Boulin
President of the Corrèze General Council
In office
15 March 1970  25 March 1979
Preceded by Elie Rouby
Succeeded by Georges Debat
Personal details
Born Jacques René Chirac
(1932-11-29) 29 November 1932
Paris, France
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 (2002–2015)
Republicans (2015–present)
Spouse(s) Bernadette de Courcel (m. 1956)
Children Laurence
Alma mater Sciences Po
École nationale d'administration
Religion Roman Catholicism
Military service
Allegiance  France
Service/branch French Army
Years of service 1954-1957

Jacques René Chirac (/ʒɑːk ʃˈræk/; French pronunciation: [ʒak ʃi.ʁak]; 29 November 1932) is a French politician, who served as the President of France from 1995 to 2007. Chirac served as Prime Minister of France from 1974 to 1976, from 1986 to 1988, and as the Mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995.

After completing his degree at the Institut d'études politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), a term at Harvard University, and the École nationale d'administration (ENA), Chirac began his career as a high-level civil servant, and soon entered politics. Chirac occupied various senior positions, including Minister of Agriculture, Minister of the Interior, Prime Minister, Mayor of Paris, and President of the French Republic.

Chirac's internal policies initially included lower tax rates, the removal of price controls, strong punishment for crime and terrorism, and business privatisation.[1] After pursuing these policies as Prime Minister (1986–1988), Chirac changed his method. He argued for more socially responsible economic policies, and was elected in 1995 after campaigning on a platform of healing the "social rift" (fracture sociale).[2] Then, Chirac's economic policies, based on dirigisme, state-directed ideals, stood in opposition to the laissez-faire policies of the United Kingdom, which Chirac famously described as "Anglo-Saxon ultraliberalism".[3]

In evaluating Chirac's presidency a decade later, the British magazine The Economist stated:

In his term, unemployment averaged 10 percent, debt mounted, the French said no to Europe, and the suburban banlieues rioted....It was on his watch that France's competitive position sharply declined...His best claims to a place in history were his stand against the American-led assault on Iraq, and his recognition of the collaborationist French government's role in deporting Jews. [But today] Jacques Chirac has emerged as an improbable icon of retro taste and a figure of public affection.[4]

On 15 December 2011, the Paris court declared him guilty of diverting public funds and abusing public confidence, and gave Chirac a two-year suspended prison sentence.

Early life

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,[2] 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.[5] He then attended the Lycée Carnot and at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. After his baccalauréat, he served for three months as a sailor on a coal-transporter.

Chirac played rugby union for Brive's youth team, and also played at university level. He played no. 8 and second row.[6]

In 1956, he married Bernadette Chodron de Courcel, with whom he had two daughters: Laurence (born 4 March 1958, deceased 14 April 2016[7]) and Claude (6 December 1962). Claude has long worked as a public relations assistant and personal adviser,[8] while Laurence, who suffered from anorexia nervosa in her youth, did not participate in the political activities of her father.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13] After leaving the ENA in 1959, he became a civil servant in the Court of Auditors.

Early political career in the Gaullist majority

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.[14] 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 of 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.[15]

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,[16] while providing incentives for businesses to stay in Paris. His opponents contend that he installed "clientelist" policies.

Two decades of opposition

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 Ivan Blot, an intellectual who would later join the National Front, as director of his campaigns for the 1979 European election.[17] 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."[18] 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.[17] But the eviction of the Gaullist Barons and of President VGE 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 almost like a 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 was 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 economic liberal opinion, even though it did not correspond with Gaullist doctrine. While the far-right National Front grew, taking advantage of a proportional representation electoral law, he signed an electoral platform with the Giscardian (and more or less Christian Democratic) party Union for French Democracy (UDF).

Prime Minister of Mitterrand: 1986–88

Chirac during his second term as Prime Minister

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 with the liberalisation initiated under Laurent Fabius's Socialist government (1984–1986 – in particular with Fabius' privatisation of the audiovisual sector, leading to the creation of Canal +), and abolished the solidarity tax on wealth (ISF), a symbolic tax on very high resources championed 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."[19] 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.[20]

"Desert crossing": 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."[19]

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 at that time 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

Juppé ministry

Chirac with Bill Clinton outside the Élysée Palace in Paris, June 1999

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.[21] 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).[19] The French Army thus remained in Côte d'Ivoire as well as in Omar Bongo's Gabon.

Chirac with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2001
Chirac and George W. Bush during the 27th G8 summit, 21 July 2001.
Chirac with German Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in 2003.

"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 over the majority in the town council of the capital. Jean Tiberi, Chirac's successor at the Paris townhall, 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".[22] 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,[23][24] Chirac refused to follow up his summons by judge Eric Halphen, and the highest echelons of the French justice declared that he could not been inculpated while in functions.

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.

Defence policy

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.[25] 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.[26] He also reduced expenditures on nuclear weapons[27] and the French nuclear arsenal was reduced to include 350 warheads, which can be compared to the Russian nuclear arsenal that consists of 16,000 warheads.[28] He also published a plan which assumes reducing the number of fighters the French military has by 30.[29]

After François Mitterrand left office in 1995, new President Chirac began a rapprochement with NATO by joining the Military Committee and attempting to negiotiate 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 by an election 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.

Close call

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.[30] 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

Chirac greets the then President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and wife Marisa Letícia during a ceremony at the Palácio da Alvorada in Brasília, Brazil, 25 May 2006.

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,[31] 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."[32]

Early term

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.[33] The UMP won the parliamentary elections that followed the presidential poll with ease.

During an official visit to Madagascar on 21 July 2005, Chirac described the repression of the 1947 Malagasy uprising, which left between 80,000 and 90,000 dead, as "unacceptable".

Despite past opposition to state intervention the Chirac government approved a €2.8 billion euro aid package to troubled manufacturing giant Alstom.[34] 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.[35]

Assassination attempt

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.[36] The gunman, Maxime Brunerie, underwent psychiatric testing; the violent far-right group with which he was associated, Unité Radicale, was then administratively dissolved.

Foreign policy

Along with Vladimir Putin (Chirac called Vladimir Putin "a personal friend".[37]), Hu Jintao, and Gerhard Schröder, Chirac emerged as a leading voice against George W. Bush in 2003 during the organization and deployment of the United States led 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 US 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 Tony Blair. Future Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin acquired much of his popularity for his speech against the war at the United Nations (UN).

After Togo's leader Gnassingbé Eyadéma's death on 5 February 2005, Chirac gave him tribute and supported his son, Faure Gnassingbé, who has since succeeded to his father.[19]

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.[38]

In July 2006, the G8 met to discuss international energy concerns. Despite the rising awareness of global warming issues, the G8 focuses on "energy security" issues. Chirac continues to be the voice within the G8 summit meetings to support international action to curb global warming and climate change concerns. Chirac warns that "humanity is dancing on a volcano" and calls for serious action by the world's leading industrialised nations.

Flight tax

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.

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 commune 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 destined to appease the protests while giving the appearance not to retract himself, and therefore to continue his support towards 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'[39] or a mini-stroke (also known as a transient ischemic attack).[40] 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. "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.[41] 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.[42]

Later life

Post-presidency: 2007–11

Shortly after leaving office, he launched the Fondation Chirac[43] 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.[44]

Jacques Chirac at Saint-Tropez in 2010

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.[45] He also became a lifetime member of the Constitutional Council of France. He sat for the first time in the Council on 15 November 2007, six months after leaving the French Presidency. Immediately after Sarkozy's victory, Chirac moved into a 180 square meters 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 to the illegal funding of the RPR's political campaigns, but the justice closed the case without further investigations.[46]

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".[47][48] Chirac wrote he considered firing Sarkozy before, and conceded responsibility in allowing Jean-Marie Le Pen to advance in 2002.[49]

A poll conducted in 2010 suggested he was the most admired political figure in France, while Sarkozy was 32nd.[47]

Final years: 2011–present

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.[50]

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.[51][52] 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 under ICU.[53] According to his son-in-law Frederic Salat-Baroux, Chirac was again hospitalized in Paris with a lung infection on 18 September 2016.[54]

In culture

Jacques Chirac. Portrait by Donald Sheridan.

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 jail") by French punk band Les Wampas, with a video clip made by the Guignols.

Portrayals in film

His role is played by Charles Fathy in the Oliver Stone film W. and in The Conquest by Bernard Le Coq.

Marc Rioufol plays Chirac in Richard Loncraine's 2010 film The Special Relationship.


Osirak controversy

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.[55] As part of this deal, France sold Iraq the Osirak MTR nuclear reactor, a type 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.[56]

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,[57] despite French involvement in the Gulf War.[58]

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 jumped 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 network, 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.[59]

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.[60] Chirac is said to be the first former French head of state to be formally placed under investigation for a crime.[61] On 30 October 2009, a judge ordered Chirac to stand trial on embezzlement charges, dating back to his time as mayor of Paris.[62]

On 7 March 2011, he went on trial on charges of diverting public funds, accused of giving fictional city jobs to twenty-eight activists of his political party while serving as the mayor of Paris (1977–95).[63][63][64] 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.[63] 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.[65]

On 15 December 2011, Chirac was found guilty and given a suspended sentence of two years.[65] 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.[66] He did not attend his trial, since medical doctors deemed that his neurological problems damaged his memory.[65] His defence team decided not to appeal.[65][67]

The Clearstream affair

Further information: Clearstream

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.[68] Chirac said that "The Republic is not a dictatorship of rumors, a dictatorship of calumny."[69]

Academic works

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, directed by the professor Jean Chardonnet, is illustrated by photographs, schemes and diagrams.

Political career

President of the French Republic: 1995–2007. Reelected in 2002.

Member of the Constitutional Council of France: Since 2007.

Governmental functions

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.

Electoral mandates

European Parliament

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).

General Council

President of the General Council of Corrèze: 1970–1979. Reelected in 1973, 1976.

General councillor of Corrèze: 1968–88. Reelected in 1970, 1976, 1982.

Municipal Council

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.

Political function

President of the Rally for the Republic: 1976–94 (Resignation).

Composition of Chirac ministries

First Chirac ministry

(27 May 1974 – 25 August 1976)

Second Chirac ministry

(20 March 1986 – 12 May 1988)


Titles from birth to currently

See also


  1. Privatization Is Essential, Chirac Warns Socialists: Resisting Global Currents, France Sticks to Being French, International Herald Tribune
  2. 1 2 "Jacques Chirac President of France from 1995–2007". Bonjourlafrance.net. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  3. Giavazzi, Francesco; Alberto Alesina (2006). The Future of Europe: Reform Or Decline. p. 125.
  4. "Jacques is back" The Economist 21 March, 2015
  5. "Quelques Anciens Celebres". Hattemer. Retrieved 2015-06-30.
  6. Famous Ruggers by Wes Clark and others. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
  7. "The troubled daughter of a French President, hidden away for decades, has died". The Independent. Retrieved 2016-04-18.
  8. "BBC World Service: "Letter from Paris – John Laurenson on Claude Chirac's crucial but understated electoral role".". BBC News. 21 March 2002. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  9. Colin Randall, "Chirac's wife tells of anorexic daughter's death wish". Daily Telegraph. 12 July 2004
  10. France 3, 12 November 1993
  11. Jacques Chirac, sabre au clair at the Wayback Machine (archived 8 June 2008). L'Humanité 8 May 1995 (in French)
  12. La biographie de Jacques Chirac at the Wayback Machine (archived 23 November 2006). Portail du Gouvernement – site du Premier ministre. 27 July 2004
  13. Emmanuel Hecht and François Vey Chirac de A à Z, dictionnaire critique et impertinent, A. Michel, 1995, ISBN 2-226-07664-6
  14. Markham, James M. (28 February 1988). "Au revoir to ideology". New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2010. Prime Minister Chirac, whose abrasive manner once earned him the nickname "the Bulldozer,"...
  15. Palier, Bruno. "France more liberalised than social-democatized?" (PDF). Chercheur CNRS au CEVIPOF.
  16. Henley, Jon (12 April 2002). "Merde most foul". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  17. 1 2 Alain-Gérard Slama, "Vous avez dit bonapartiste?" in L'Histoire n°313, October 2006, pp.60–63 (French)
  18. "La "Cruella" de la droite revient... Marie-France Garaud taclera-t-elle Sarkozy?". Le Post.
  19. 1 2 3 4 "Naufrage de la Françafrique – Le président a poursuivi une politique privilégiant les hommes forts au pouvoir.", Stephen Smith in L'Histoire n°313, October 2006 (special issue on Chirac), p.70 (French)
  20. de Quetteville, Harry (25 April 2002). "Chirac labels 'racist' Le Pen as threat to nation's soul". The Age. Australia. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  21. "Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty". Acronym.org.uk. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  22. "Rien ne va plus entre Chirac et Tiberi", Le Figaro, 18 November 2000 (French)
  23. "Un témoignage pour l'histoire", Le Monde, 22 September 2000 (French)
  24. La suite du testament de Jean-Claude Méry, Le Monde, 23 September 2000 (French)
  25. CIA – The World Factbook – Rank Order – Military expenditures – percent of GDP. Cia.gov. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
  26. "Porte-avions Charles de Gaulle". Netmarine.net. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  27. John Pike. "Nuclear Weapons – France Nuclear Forces". GlobalSecurity.org. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  28. John Pike. "Worldwide Nuclear Forces". Globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  29. David Rose. "Concorde: the unanswered questions". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-07-21.
  30. "Europe". Bloomberg. 2 June 2005. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  31. "What France needs". The Economist. 26 October 2006. Retrieved 5 August 2007.
  32. More conservative infighting over links to French far right at the Wayback Machine (archived 12 May 2008) Associated Press via Turkish Daily News. 15 August 1998
  33. Eric Pfanner (8 August 2003). "France's § 2.8 billion aid package unlikely to bring quick fix : Alstom bailout may be long haul". International Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  34. "People's Daily Online – France's Alstom, China ink $1.3b contracts". People's Daily. 10 October 2004. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  35. Chirac escapes lone gunman's bullet, BBC, 15 July 2002
  36. "Europe's bear problem". The Economist. 25 February 2010.
  37. Chirac: Nuclear Response to Terrorism Is Possible, The Washington Post, 20 January 2006
  38. Willsher, Kim (4 September 2005). "Minor stroke puts Chirac in hospital but he hangs on to reins of government". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  39. "Belfast Telegraph". Highbeam.com. 6 September 2005. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  40. France's Chirac says he will not run for re-election Associated Press, 11 March 2007. Retrieved 11 March 2007
  41. Chirac Leaving Stage Admired and Scorned by John Leicester, Associated Press, 11 March 2007. Retrieved 11 March 2007.
  42. "Chirac launches foundation 'to awaken consciences'". AFP. 8 June 2008.
  43. The Fondation Chirac Prize for Conflict Prevention
  44. "Chirac found guilty on corruption charges", CNN.com, 15 December 2011.
  45. Chirac trouve un point de chute à Paris chez la famille Hariri, Libération, 27 April 2007 (French)
  46. 1 2 "France election 2012: Chirac mocks Sarkozy in memoirs", BBC. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2011
  47. "'Impetuous, disloyal, and un-French': Chirac attempts coup de grace on Sarkozy", John Lichfield. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2011
  48. "Jacques Chirac breaks four-year silence on Nicolas Sarkozy to criticise French president", Henry Samuel. The Telegraph. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2011
  49. Sparks, Ian (21 January 2009). "President Chirac hospitalised after mauling by his clinically depressed poodle". Daily Mail.
  50. BBC News, 24 17 February 2014
  51. Marszal, Andrew, ed. (17 February 2014). "Jacques Chirac in hospital with 'acute gout'". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  52. Tim Hume (10 December 2015). "Former French President Jacques Chirac Hospitalized". CNN.com. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
  53. "Former French President Jacques Chirac is hospitalized with lung infection". Japan Times. AFP. 18 September 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  54. Taheri, Amir, "The Chirac Doctrine: France's Iraq-war plan", National Review Online, 4 November 2002
  55. "1981: Israel bombs Baghdad nuclear reactor", On this day – 7 June, BBC News. Retrieved 5 September 2008
  56. Joshua Glenn, Rebuilding Iraq, Boston Globe, 2 March 2003
  57. "Out of Area or Out of Reach? European Military Support for Operations in Southwest Asia" (PDF). Retrieved 13 June 2010.
  58. Jean Guarrigues, professor at the University of Orléans (and author of Les Scandales de la République. De Panama à l'Affaire Elf, Robert Laffon, 2004), "La dérive des affaires" in L'Histoire n° 313, October 2006, pp. 66–71 (French)
  59. Lichfield, John (22 November 2007). "Chirac faces investigation into 'misuse of public cash'". The Independent. London. Retrieved 6 July 2008.
  60. "Le dossier judiciaire de Jacques Chirac s'alourdit". Capital (in French). 22 February 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2008.
  61. Alan Cowell (30 October 2009). "Frances Chirac Ordered to Face Trial". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 October 2009.
  62. 1 2 3 "France: Jacques Chirac corruption trial opens". BBC News. 7 March 2011. Archived from the original on 8 March 2011. Retrieved 8 March 2011.
  63. Samuel, Henry (7 March 2011). "Jacques Chirac trial faces further delays". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 8 March 2011. Retrieved 8 March 2011.
  64. 1 2 3 4 "French ex-President Jacques Chirac guilty of corruption". BBC. 15 December 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  65. "Jacques Chirac found guilty of corruption", Guardian, 15 December 2011.
  66. Erlanger, Steven (15 December 2011). "Chirac Found Guilty in Political Funding Case". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  67. French farce, The Times, 11 May 2006
  68. Caught in deep water: Chirac swims against a tide of scandal, The Times, 11 May 2006
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  74. 1 2 Lithuanian Presidency, Lithuanian Orders searching form

Further reading

Primary sources

In French

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Political offices
Preceded by
Michel Cointat
Minister of Agriculture
Succeeded by
Raymond Marcellin
Preceded by
Raymond Marcellin
Minister of the Interior
Succeeded by
Michel Poniatowski
Preceded by
Pierre Messmer
Prime Minister of France
Succeeded by
Raymond Barre
New office Mayor of Paris
Succeeded by
Jean Tiberi
Preceded by
Laurent Fabius
Prime Minister of France
Succeeded by
Michel Rocard
Preceded by
François Mitterrand
President of France
Succeeded by
Nicolas Sarkozy
Party political offices
Preceded by
Alexandre Sanguinetti
Leader of the Union of Democrats for the Republic
Succeeded by
André Bord
New political party Leader of Rally for the Republic
Succeeded by
Alain Juppé
Preceded by
Jacques Chaban-Delmas
Rally for the Republic nominee for President of France
1981, 1988, 1995, 2002
Party merged
Regnal titles
Preceded by
François Mitterrand
Co-Prince of Andorra
Served alongside: Joan Martí Alanis, Joan Enric Vives Sicília
Succeeded by
Nicolas Sarkozy
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
François Mitterrand
Honorary Canon of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran
Succeeded by
Nicolas Sarkozy
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Jean Chrétien
Chairperson of the Group of 7
Succeeded by
Bill Clinton
Chairperson of the Group of 8
Succeeded by
George W. Bush
Order of precedence
Preceded by
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing
as Former President
Order of Precedence of France
Former President
Succeeded by
Nicolas Sarkozy
as Former President
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