Former French President Jacques Chirac is no more. Mr Chirac who had suffered a series of health problems in recent years died on Thursday, September 26, 2019 in the morning surrounded by his family. Immediately his dead was announced by his son-in-law, a minute of silence was held in the French National Assembly.
Mr Jacque Chirac, a great friend of Cameroon where he visited twice, was born in 1932 and married to Bernadette in 1956. His long career began under Charles de Gaulle in the 1960s. He was twice Prime Minister of France before serving as head of state from 1995 to 2007. In 1974 he became Prime Minister under President Valery Giscard d’Estaing from where he became Mayor of Paris in 1977, a position he held for 18 years before returning as Prime Minister in 1986, in an uncomfortable arrangement with President Francois Mitterrand of the opposing Socialist Party.
After unsuccessful runs for the presidency in 1981 and 1988, he was finally elected head of state in 1995. In 2002 he had an easy ride to a second term when far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen unexpectedly reached the final round. In a rare show of unity, the moderate right and the left united behind Chirac, and he crushed Le Pen with 82% vote in the run-off.
Beyond the French borders, he was highly acclaimed for his vigorous opposition to the US-invasion-of Iraq that put him at loggerheads with the United States President, George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
However, his authority was badly weakened at home by France’s ‘No’ vote in a European Constitution Referendum in 2005. Despite promising to heal the ‘social fracture’, he failed to defuse tensions between police and minority youths that exploded into riots across France in 2005.
After the presidential term was shortened from seven to five years, he left office in 2007, replaced by Nicolas Sarkozy. He was later found guilty of corruption dating back to his time as Mayor of Paris and given a two-year suspended prison sentence.