Jacques Chirac has died

He was president of France from 1995 to 2007. Now Jacques Chirac has died, aged 86. His political career began as a member of former president Georges Pompidou's team. He served as prime minister twice and was mayor of Paris for 18 years. Journalists discuss Chirac's impact on French politics.

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The Economist (GB) /

Not good years for France

During Chirac's times as president France experienced a period of political, economic and social decline, The Economist says:

“His years in power bequeathed France higher unemployment, worse public finances and deeper social divisions. His disillusioned people lost faith both in the European ideal and largely in their own governing class - not least, in him. ... By the end of his ill-starred second term, Mr Chirac was the Fifth Republic's most unpopular president (though François Hollande later beat that dismal record). It was easy to see why. The country was suffering from what he himself admitted was a 'profound malaise', playing a humiliating second fiddle to a resurgent Germany in European politics.”

Le Monde (FR) /

A reflection of an era

Chirac lacked a vision for the future, Le Monde comments:

“Clearly his visionary moments, like the day at the Earth Summit 2002 in Johannesburg when he set alarm bells ringing over the threat posed by climate change, were too few and far between. Clearly he was even less a shaper of the future, apart from his decision to introduce a professional army and put an end to the centuries-old national service. And clearly, at the start of the 2000s, he didn't prepare France, its economy or its industry for the challenges of globalisation. In this regard he can hardly rival the achievements of his predecessors. But his longevity, his tenacity and his personality allowed him to bring France from one century into the next. Jacques Chirac, whose destiny reflects the era he lived in.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

A man of the people

Chirac's personal weaknesses never did him any harm, Gazeta Wyborcza writes:

“In France Chirac became the hero of several - not alleged but very real - scandals. ... Clearly he benefited from this, because it prompted 'normal people' to identify with him. They saw him as a friend who was like them, with all his human flaws and absurdities. He was the way he was, but when you talk to 'normal' French people you often hear that he was 'the last true president'. Specialists put it differently: for them he was a 'monument of French politics'.”