Chirac, Jacques Rene

Chirac, Jacques Rene
▪ 1996

      On his third attempt to win the French presidency, Mayor Jacques Chirac of Paris at last succeeded in May 1995. First topping his friend and fellow Gaullist Prime Minister Édouard Balladur, Chirac then was pitted against the Socialist Party (PS) candidate, Lionel Jospin. With France facing a soaring budget deficit and steadily rising unemployment, Chirac convinced voters that a change was needed and that he was the man for the job.

      Two times the prime minister of France (1974-76 and 1986-88), Chirac had twice before run for president. His first attempt, in 1981, split the conservative vote with Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and resulted in the election of François Mitterrand of the PS. When a strong conservative coalition won a slight majority in the National Assembly in 1986, Mitterrand appointed Chirac prime minister. This power-sharing arrangement, known as cohabitation, gave Chirac the lead in domestic affairs. He ran against Mitterrand in 1988 but was defeated in runoff elections.

      Chirac was born on Nov. 29, 1932. He graduated from the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris in 1954, served as an army officer in Algeria (1956-57), and earned a graduate degree from the École Nationale d'Administration in 1959. He then became a civil servant and rose rapidly through the ranks, serving as a department head and a secretary of state before becoming minister for parliamentary relations in 1971-72 under Pres. Georges Pompidou. He was elected to the National Assembly as a Gaullist successively from 1967. After serving as minister of agriculture (1972-74) and the interior (1974), Chirac was appointed prime minister by newly elected President Giscard. Citing personal and professional differences with Giscard, Chirac resigned that office in 1976 and set about reconstituting the Gaullist Union of Democrats for the Republic into a neo-Gaullist group, the Rally for the Republic. With the new party firmly under his control, Chirac was elected mayor of Paris in 1977. He proceeded to build up his political base among France's several conservative parties, and it was this power base that ultimately led to his victory.

      One of his first moves in office was to name Alain Juppé prime minister. Soon Juppé was embroiled in a scandal over his distribution of city-owned apartments to friends and cronies, a scandal that threatened to involve Chirac as well. In a decision of more far-reaching proportions, Chirac insisted upon the resumption of nuclear tests in the South Pacific. He remained undaunted by the international protests pouring into his office. On the home front, at year's end he faced workers' strikes of major proportions. (KATHLEEN KUIPER)

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Universalium. 2010.

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