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Last Updated: Monday, 12 March 2007, 13:03 GMT
French press bids Chirac adieu
President Chirac
President Chirac has been dogged by corruption allegations

French papers have given President Jacques Chirac a mixed send-off after he announced he would not run for a third term in office in April.

They agree that, although he was a major statesman, his tenure was clouded by political defeats.


Jacques Chirac arrived to cheers; he will leave more popular than he has been for a long time... Between the beginning and end of his reign runs the broken line of a rule rich in resounding defeat, unexpected revenge and disappointed hopes, which was to create a great lack of understanding between him and his supporters. Deep down, the right was not his style - but he would not say so, being a prisoner of the role which life and his ambition had assigned to him.


The fact that Chirac, the president, had the stature of a statesman on a grand scale is indisputable - even if it took time, a lot of time, for it to be established. The fact that the president raised France's colours high on the international scene... is equally true. The fact that on national soil the head of state became the president of all the French and not just of a single section is undeniable. But large shadows still hang over this picture - at least two. First, Europe: the "no" to the Constitution is a serious failure in that it compromises the future of European construction and France's place in this construction. The second is at least as important: Jacques Chirac did not succeed in waking up France and the French people, in what is after all the fundamental sphere - the economy.


One might criticise Jacques Chirac for having reasoned for too long as if France was alone in the world - but one cannot take away from him the fact that he fiercely defended the values of tolerance, which are those of the French spirit.


Aged 74 and no longer encumbered by electoral considerations, he has adopted the identity of an anti-liberal in economic terms, an ecologist, pacifist and humanitarian who loathes right-wing extremism. Chirac wants to show history his leftist profile as he leaves the stage, after having adopted a variety of identities since 1967 - from social radical to liberal, passing through proponent of the state and the compassionate desire to repair the "social fissure".

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Profile: Jacques Chirac
11 Mar 07 |  Europe

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