Jacques Chirac Biography
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.
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.
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.