Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Chirac, Jacques (1932–)

Title: Jacques Chirac
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Conservative French politician, mayor of Paris (1977–1995), prime minister (1974–1976, 1986–1988), and president of the Fifth Republic (1995–present). Born on 29 November 1932 in Paris, Jacques Chirac attended the elite Lycée Louis-le-Grand before beginning his studies at the Institut d'Études Politiques in 1954. He left to serve as an army officer in Algeria. From 1957 to 1959 he attended the École Nationale d'Administration and subsequently joined the civil service in the Court of Accounts. In April 1962 he was appointed to Premier Georges Pompidou's staff. As Pompidou's protégé, Chirac successfully ran as a Gaullist in the 1967 National Assembly elections. With the seat came the post of junior minister for social affairs, which made him a central figure in Pompidou's crisis-management team during the student protests of May 1968.

From 1968 to 1971, Chirac worked as a state secretary under future political adversary Valéry Giscard d'Estaing in the Ministry of Economy and Finance. In 1972, Chirac was entrusted with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, gaining international attention when he attacked the agricultural policies of other major Western powers as harmful to French interests. In March 1974, he became minister of the interior. When Pompidou's untimely death resulted in early elections and Giscard assumed the presidency, the young Chirac was appointed premier on 27 May 1974. Six months later, he used his position to take over the leadership of the Gaullist party. Differences with President Giscard led to Chirac's resignation in August 1976.

Chirac used the next several years to form a new, Gaullist-like party, Le Rassemblement pour la République (Rally for the Republic). Backed by his new party, he won an easy electoral victory and became mayor of Paris in 1977, an office he held until 1995. In 1978, the Chirac-Giscard feud deepened when Chirac accused Giscard's pro-European party of being "the agent of foreign powers." Chirac ran against Giscard from the Right in the 1981 presidential elections, thus splitting the electorate and paving the way for socialist François Mitterrand's May 1981 victory. When the conservatives won a majority in the 1986 National Assembly elections, however, Mitterrand appointed Chirac premier in March. He remained in office until he ran again in vain for the presidency in May 1988.

Finally, in May 1995 Chirac won election to the presidency, replacing the retiring President Mitterrand. President Chirac surprised the world and angered his European neighbors when he ordered the resumption of nuclear testing in French Polynesia, ending his predecessor's three-year moratorium. Less than a year later, however, he signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty on 24 September 1996. Despite subsequent electoral setbacks for his party, Chirac has managed to stay in office. In 1996 he visited Washington, D.C., and strengthened ties to the United States. He broke with the George W. Bush administration over the war in Iraq, however, and U.S.-French relations reached a low ebb by the end of 2003.

Matthias Trefs


Further Reading
Jouve, Pierre. Jacques Chirac: Portrait Total. Paris: Carrère, 1987.; Madelin, Philippe. Jacques Chirac: Une Biographie. Paris: Flammarion, 2002.; Tuppen, John. Chirac's France, 1986–88. London: Macmillan, 1991.
 

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