Chirac, Jacques René

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Chirac, Jacques René

(zhäk rənā` shēräk`), 1932–, French political leader, president of France (1995–2007), b. Paris. He attended the National School of Administration, joined the civil service, and began his political career in 1961 working for Premier Georges PompidouPompidou, Georges Jean Raymond
, 1911–74. French political leader, president of France (1969–74). Georges Pompidou taught school and then served in World War II until the fall (1940) of France, when he returned to teaching.
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. Elected to the National Assembly in 1967, he held several governmental posts (1967–74) before serving as premier (1974–76) under Valéry Giscard d'EstaingGiscard d'Estaing, Valéry
, 1926–, French political leader, president of France (1974–81); b. Germany. A member of the national assembly at the age of 29, he was deputy finance minister (1959–62) and finance minister (1962–66) in Charles de
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. Chirac broke with Giscard in 1976, however, and assumed leadership of the neo-Gaullists as head of the newly founded Rally for the Republic (RPR). Mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995, he was twice an unsuccessful presidential candidate (1981, 1988) and once more served as premier (1986–88), during François MitterrandMitterrand, François Maurice
, 1916–96, French political leader, president of France, 1981–95. Initially a supporter of Pétain's Vichy government during World War II, he joined the Resistance in 1943.
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's presidency.

Chirac again ran for president in 1995; this time he was elected, defeating the Socialist candidate, Lionel JospinJospin, Lionel Robert
, 1937–, French politician, premier of France (1997–2002). He studied at the elite École Nationale d'Administration (1961–65) and worked (1965–70) in the foreign ministry.
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, and his fellow Gaullist Édouard BalladurBalladur, Édouard
, 1929–, French political leader, b. Turkey. He moved to France as a child and grew up in Marseille. A Gaullist and member of the Rally for the Republic, he served under Premier Georges Pompidou in the 1960s and was finance minister under
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. In office he sought to reduce France's unemployment, cut the deficit (a requirement for establishment of a single European Union currency), and strengthen ties with Germany. His attempt (1995) to reduce costs in the heavily subsidized railway system led to a crippling national transportation strike and a capitulation to striking workers.

In an effort to solidify conservative control of the National Assembly, he called early elections in 1997. The Socialists and their allies triumphed at the polls, forcing Chirac to work with a Socialist premier, Lionel Jospin. Chirac championed a general reduction in French military expenditures, but he also called for the development of the military capabilities of the European Union as a counterbalance to those of the United States. In 2000 and 2001, Chirac was implicated in a number of corruption scandals, including a 1980s kickback scheme when he was mayor of Paris that provided funds for political parties. A French magistrate indicated that he had evidence that Chirac had taken part in the kickback scheme, but, as president, Chirac was immune from prosecution. (Chirac was convicted in 2011, however, on corruption charges arising from bogus city jobs for RPR members while he was mayor.)

Chirac was reelected in May, 2002, defeating Jean-Marie Le PenLe Pen, Jean-Marie
, 1928–, French politician. He graduated from law school, was elected (1956) a parliamentary deputy, and criticized President de Gaulle's Algerian policy. From 1972 to 2011 he led the extreme right-wing National Front (FN).
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, a right-wing extremist who had edged out Jospin in the election's first round. Chirac was a vocal opponent of the Bush administration's use of force in 2003 to disarm Iraq and remove Saddam HusseinHussein, Saddam
, 1937–2006, Iraqi political leader. A member of the Ba'ath party, he fled Iraq after participating (1959) in an assassination attempt on the country's prime minister; in Egypt he attended law school.
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 from power. Also in 2003 he became the first French president to make a state visit to Algeria since that nation won its independence from France. His failure in 2005 to win the approval of French voters for a new EU constitution was a blow to his prestige. He retired as president in 2007, having decided not to seek a third term; Nicolas SarkozySarkozy, Nicolas
(Nicolas Paul Stéphane Sarkozy de Nagy-Bocsa) , 1955–, French politician, president of France (2007–12), b. Paris. The son of a minor Hungarian aristocrat who immigrated to France and married the daughter of Greek immigrants, Sarkozy became a
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 succeeded him.


See his My Life in Politics (tr. 2012).

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