Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jacques Chirac

Ex-President of France
Born on          29 November 1932
Born in            Paris, France

Jacques Chirac is one of the most influential politicians in France. Getting inspiration from Charles DeGaulle, Chirac entered French national politics in 1950s. After serving as the Mayor of Paris for 18 years, he was elected as the President in 1995 and continued to hold the post till 2007. He also served as the Prime Minister, from 1974 to 1976 and from 1986 to 1988. Throughout his political career, he assumed various high level government posts, including secretary of state for social affairs in charge of employment, secretary of state for the economy and finance, minister delegate to the premier for relations with Parliament, minister of agriculture and rural development and minister of the interior. His popularity increased after his opposition to George W. Bush's decision of invading Iraq in 2003.

Jacques Chirac was born on November 29, 1932, in Paris, France. He was the only child of his parents, as his elder sister, Jacqueline, died as infant even before he was born. His father, Abel Francois Chirac, was an executive for an aircraft company, and mother Marie-Louise Valette was a housewife. The great grandparents of Chirac, on both paternal and maternal side, were peasants. However, his two grandfathers were teachers from Sainte-Féréole in Corrèze. He received education in Paris from the Lycée Carnot and the Lycée Louis-le-Grand.

Early Life
Jacques Chirac completed his graduation in 1953, in Political Science, from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques, which was one of the prestigious institutes of France, at that time. He also received education at the Ecole Nationale d'Administration.. At the age of 20, he won a scholarship to study at Harvard Business School (USA). Around this time, Chirac joined the French Communist Party, sold copies of L'Humanité, and took part in meetings of a communist cell. He also signed the Soviet-inspired Stockholm Appeal for the abolition of nuclear weapons, something that led to his questioning when he applied for his first visa to the U.S.

Early Political Career
As a bureaucrat, Jacques Chirac was interested in the issues like growth and modernization which went side by side with the policies of Gaullist government. He joined a politician's personal staff in the government, in 1962. Chirac was an economic adviser, whom Gaullist admired the most. He played an important role in the spectacular economic growth of France. He was elected as the municipal council of the tiny Correzian town of Sainte-Fereol, his home town, in 1965. Although Chirac's family origins lay in the rural Correze department, he was elected to the National Assembly from that area repeatedly, from 1967 to 1995. During these years, Chirac's political influence within the Gaullist party grew.

Chirac was trained and posted as a reserve officer in armoured cavalry at Saumur. He also participated in the Algerian War. He worked as a civil servant in the Court of Auditors, after leaving ENA, in 1959. Soon, Chirac was serving as the head of the personal staff of Prime Minister Georges Pompidou, which helped him in his political career. For a seat in the National Assembly, in 1967, Chirac ran as a Gaullist. He was elected as the deputy of Corrèze département, a stronghold of the left. This surprising victory allowed him to enter the government as Minister of Social Affairs. Chirac worked as State Secretary of Economy from 1968 to 1971.

Chirac worked in the Ministry of Relations, with Parliament, for sometime. In 1969, he was appointed as the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.Soon, he attracted international attention, when he criticized agricultural policies of U.S., West German, and European Commission, which were in conflict with French interests. In 1974, when Raymond Marcellin resigned from his post, Chirac took his post and became Minister of the Interior. His political career got wings with the presidential election of 1974. He held number of government posts under the presidency of Pompidou and was appointed as Interior Minister, just before President Georges Pompidou died.

Being The Prime Minister
In the elections of 1974, Jacques Chirac supported the successful Valery Giscard d'Estaing, rather than Gaullist candidate Chaban Delmas. The new president chose Chirac for the post of prime minister. However, Chirac's years as prime minister were not easy. His views and ideas on the role for the state differed from that of President Giscard. In addition, there was strong conflict between Prime Minister Chirac's and President Giscard's ambitions on their style of working for countries progress. He also faced the hostility of "Barons of Gaullism", over his role in the previous elections. Chirac resigned from the position of Prime Minister, in 1976, citing Giscard's unwillingness to give him authority, as the reason.

Member of Opposition & Mayor
After resigning from the post of Prime Minister, Jacques Chirac formed the Rally for the Republic (RPR). Originating from the Union of Democrats for the Republic (Union des Démocrates pour la République, UDR), the party presented itself as the heir of Gaullism. This served as the first step in his presidential campaign. He declared war on Giscard immediately after becoming President of RPR (the Rassemblement pour la Republique). In 1977, Chirac became the Mayor of Paris by defeating Michel d'Ornano, a close friend of the president. Being a Mayor, he criticized the national government and demonstrated his own capability to become the President. In order to prove his ability, he did many things for the development of country, such as improving the social services. As the mayor of Paris, Chirac had overridden a ban on a 1987 Madonna concert. The singer later donated high amount for AIDS research to the city, as a gesture of thanks.

1981 Presidential Election
The nationalist campaign Jacques Chirac ran for the 1979 European elections was a total failure. He attacked the pro-European policy of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (VGE) and made a nationalist turn with the December 1978 Call of Cochin. In 1981, for the first time, Chirac ran for the post of President, against Giscard d'Estaing. He was eliminated in the first round of the presidential elections, following which he supported Giscard. However, throughout the election, he said that he supported the incumbent president 'in a private capacity'. Finally, Mitterrand won and was elected as the president. Following this, Chirac appeared as the principal leader of the right-wing opposition.

Prime Minister For the Second Time
When the Socialist Party of President Mitterrand lost its majority in the National Assembly, in the 1986 election, Chirac again became Prime Minister, in a power-sharing agreement called cohabitation. During its term, Chirac's cabinet sold a lot of public companies and abolished the solidarity tax on wealth (ISF). In terms of foreign policy, the Prime Minister called back to affairs Jacques Foccart. On the other hand, he ordered a military intervention against the separatists in the Ouvea cave, which resulted in several tragic deaths. Chirac also allegedly refused any alliance with Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National.

1988 Presidential Elections
In 1988, Jacques Chirac again participated in president election and was defeated by Mitterrand. In the first round, he obtained 20 percent of the vote, but lost the second by getting only 46 percent. Thereafter, he resigned from the cabinet. For the first time, his leadership over the RPR was challenged. A new generation of politicians, who were known as the "renovation men", found Chirac and Giscard responsible for the defeat in elections. Finally, Chirac announced that he will not come back as Prime Minister and suggested the name of Edouard Balladur, for the post. Balladur had promised that he would not run for the presidency against Chirac in 1995. However, forgetting his promise, with the support of a majority of right-wing politicians, Balladur decided to participate in the presidential election.

President of France
Jacques Chirac made a third attempt to become President in 1995, stressing on tax cuts and job programs, and won the election. It is believed that Chirac's backing of the Madonna concert captured the support of the youthful voters of country. As the President of France, Chirac had a challenge to restore the confidence of public, increase economic growth and decrease unemployment rate. In addition, he had also promised to lower taxes, create more jobs, overhaul the education system and create a volunteer army. During his first months in office, his policies failed to ease the labor strikes on the domestic front. Moreover, neo-liberal economic austerity measures proved to be unaccepted.

Chirac faced major workers strikes by the end of 1995, which later turned in a general strike.He was also criticized for Juppé's plan on the reform of pensions. He also insisted upon the recommencement of nuclear tests at Mururoa Atoll, in French Polynesia. However, on 1st February 1996, he announced that France had ended its nuclear testing "once and for all". In 1997, Chirac's power was weakened by the backlash that emerged from his dissolving the parliament, for early legislative elections, to support his conservative economic program. From 1997 to 2002, he was forced into a new period of cohabitation with Jospin as prime minister.

Chirac was criticized for the scandals about the financing of RPR by Paris municipality. He was also condemned for reducing the French military budget as well as the expenditure on nuclear weapons. In 2002, Chirac fought his fourth presidential campaign. This time, he faced Jean-Marie Le Pen of National Front (FN) and won upon receiving 82% votes. During his second term as the President, Chirac became increasingly unpopular. However, his popularity as a President increased after his opposition of George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq. Around this time only, Chirac established a new party, called 'Union of the Presidential Majority'.

With PRC President Hu Jintao, Chirac signed a trade agreement in October 2004, as per which, Alstom would be given one billion euro in contracts and promised of future investment in China. He retracted the proposed First Employment Contract (CPE) because of the major student's protests in spring 2006.In 2007, Chirac announced on the television that he "would not choose to seek a third term as France's President". During his two terms as the president, he increased the total budget of Elysee Palace by 105%. The number of presidential cars was doubled. Nowadays, there are 61 cars and seven scooters in the Palace's garage. He also employed 145 extra employees.

Criticism as President
As president, Jacques Chirac was criticized for inaction, domestic policies, foreign policy and for his political scandals involving fraud and corruption. Chirac's popularity dropped more, when in 1995; France restarted its nuclear weapons test program in the South Pacific. Over 20 countries officially protested against this program, resulting in international boycotts of wine and other French products. Many people were injured in Riots. These riots caused property damage, amounting to millions of dollars. Chirac has also been criticized for illegal party financing, when he was Mayor of Paris and for the favors he received from Saddam Hussein.

After Presidency
After serving his second term as the President of France, Chirac became a lifetime member of the Constitutional Council of France. Immediately after leaving office, he founded 'Jacques Chirac Foundation for Sustainable Development and Cultural Dialogue', operating in France even now. Chirac had moved into a 180 square meters duplex house in Paris, which was presented to him by the family of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. As a former President, he will be receiving lifetime pension and personal security protection. Recent polls have shown that since leaving office, Chirac is regarded as one of the most popular politicians in France, liked by 70 per cent of people.

Assassination Attempt & Health Problems
During Bastille Day celebrations, on 14th July 2002, Jacques Chirac survived an assassination attempt by a gunman, with a rifle hidden in his guitar case. The gunman fired a shot at the presidential motorcade, but was soon overpowered by bystanders. In early September 2005, Chirac suffered from 'vascular incident' (as his doctors described it), also known as a Transient ischemic attack. He went through a surgery and returned to his duties soon after. Chirac's office announced that he had undergone successful surgery to fit a pacemaker on 11 April 2008. In January 2009, it was reported that Chirac had been hospitalized after being attacked by his pet Maltese poodle, which is suffering from depressants and being treated for the same.

Personal Life
Chirac's personal life has seen many ups and downs. Though his marriage was fixed with his future wife, Bernadette Chodron de Courcel, he fell in love with a girl who belonged to South Carolina. She used to call him "honey child". Still, Chirac returned to Paris and married Bernadette on March 16, 1956. They had two daughters: Laurence (born March 4, 1958) and Claude (born January 14, 1962). His eldest daughter Laurence is a physician and was suffering from depression and anorexia, due to frustration caused by ill health. She tried to commit suicide, by jumping out of a fourth floor window, in April 1990. However, she was saved in time.

Chirac's younger daughter Claude also had a miserable life. In 1992, Claude's husband, Philippe Habert, was found dead, after having overdose of sleeping pills. In 1979, Chirac and his wife adopted a 22-year-old woman, named Anh Dao. Two years later, Chirac got her married to Hua Dong, a municipal employee. Claude has worked for a long time as a public relations assistant and personal adviser, while Laurence does not participate in the political activities of her father. Anh's son (with French judoka Thierry Rey), Bernard Jacques, has been named after his grandfather Jacques Chirac.

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