France’s former president Jacques Chirac died on Thursday (September 26) at the age of 86.
He was a charismatic figure who dominated French politics for decades and stirred national pride with his opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Chirac, whose film-star looks helped him emerge as a political prodigy in the 1960s and go on to become France’s second-longest-serving president, had long suffered from neurological problems and was rarely seen in public in recent times.
His popularity was based on symbolic gestures and his dignified demeanour after he abandoned a short-lived attempt at reforms early in his 1995-2007 presidency when it triggered a national strike.
Perhaps his most enduring political legacy was to found the forerunner of the opposition UMP party.
Nicknamed Houdini because of his knack for wriggling out of tight spots, Chirac’s reputation even survived a conviction for misuse of public funds in December, which made him the first head of state convicted since Nazi collaborator Marshal Philippe Petain in 1945.
For many, Chirac’s statesmanlike but jocular air personified a vision of France – encapsulating both its rural roots and its central role in diplomatic affairs envisaged by President Charles de Gaulle.
Even after retiring from public office, Chirac drew crowds of journalists and admirers.
One of his last public appearances was at an award ceremony given by his charitable foundation.
The frenetic energy and brashness of his successor Nicolas Sarkozy left many pining for the quieter days of Chirac’s 12-year presidency and the slower pace he set for public life.
Following in the footsteps of de Gaulle, Chirac devoted much of his presidency to defending France’s role as a great nation on the world stage — a worldview he consecrated by opposing the invasion of Iraq at the U.N. Security Council in 2003.
But in France, where Chirac was sometimes best known through his persona as a puppet on a popular TV show, he is also remembered for personality quirks like a taste for Mexican Corona beer, poor command of English and his seeming aloofness.
Chirac’s persona was also a puzzle: he enjoyed Asian art and Japanese poetry but liked to play down his intellectual side.
A commentator once described him as the kind of man who would read a book of poetry behind a copy of Playboy.
Born in 1932 to a middle-class family from the rural central French region of Correze, Chirac began his political career in the late 1950’s after studying at the elite Sciences Po university and ENA civil service academy.
As a teenager, he briefly sold the communist newspaper L’Humanite on Paris street corners.
He also developed an enduring love of America, crossing the country doing odd jobs – including a spell of washing dishes.
Yet his early leanings seemed forgotten when he became an army officer and linked up with the ultra-nationalist Algerie Francaise party – only to change tack again to become a moderate Gaullist and, by 1967, an ambitious junior minister.
He rose fast but also made enemies equally quickly.
He ripped apart the old Gaullist movement in 1974, backing non-Gaullist moderniser Valery Giscard d’Estaing for president.
Chirac was just 41 when Giscard made him prime minister on May 28, 1974 after winning power, but he quit two years later after falling out with Giscard over the extent of his powers.
He dramatically turned his back on Giscard by forming a new Gaullist party of his own, the Rally for the Republic (RPR) in 1976, which then become the Union for a Popular Majority (UMP).
The following year he was elected as Paris’ first mayor — starting an 18-year career at City Hall that would come back to haunt him.
After nearly two decades of investigations, he was handed a two-year suspended prison sentence last year for channelling public money into phantom jobs for political cronies as mayor from 1977 to 1995.
Though eventually convicted, Chirac was excused from attending the trial due to his failing memory.
Supporters would prefer that he be remembered for electoral victories in 1995 and 2002, when he was re-elected after a fraught head-to-head battle with far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen that sent shockwaves through the country.
He secured a landslide victory in that election but that was more vote against Le Pen than a resounding vote of confidence.
Though President Georges Pompidou once referred to him as “bulldozer” for his ability to get things done, Chirac’s presidency is remembered mostly as a time of stasis.
He ended compulsory military service and started moves that reintegrated France into the NATO defence alliance, reversing a policy set in the 1960s.
He sought as president to reduce unemployment and cut public debt, and steered France into Europe’s monetary union, but did little to modernise the economy or the state.
At one time a lover of all things American, he later led France’s opposition to the U.S.-led Iraq war in 2003 which chilled relations with Washington.
Once an anti-European Gaullist, he became one of Europe’s main standard bearers.
He forged an alliance with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder which brought Europe’s two traditional powers closer together but upset some of their European Union partners.
His changing political views earned him nicknames such as Chameleon Bonaparte and the Weathervane.
He is, however, acknowledged as the first French head of state to recognise the role of the Vichy regime in the Holocaust and the first to apologise formally to the Jewish people.
After leaving the Elysee in 2007, he lived a quiet life, living with his wife on Paris’ Quai Voltaire in an apartment loaned by Lebanon’s Hariri family, and working on his memoirs, the second volume of which appeared last summer. (Reuters)
A funeral service is being held for her at Sta. Teresita Funeral Homes in Panobo City.
According to Janice’s father, Losito Cabardo, the hearing for the custody of their 18-month-old granddaughter who is still in France is scheduled on Monday (October 7).
He is also asking for assistance so they can take their granddaughter home.
“Baka patayin na naman niya ang anak niya pagkatapos ng ginawa niya sa asawa niya kaya ang gusto namin mangyari dito ang apo ko sa amin (He [Badr] might kill his daughter too like what he did to his wife. We want our granddaughter to come home with us),” he said.—AAC (with reports from Janice Ingente)
The relatives of the Filipina who was stabbed to death by her husband in France last Friday (September 20) are calling out for justice.
Mike Cabardo still cannot accept the fate of her sister Janice Cabardo Badr after she was stabbed by her husband Christophe Badr in Maisons-Lafitte in France.
Mike recalled her sister’s message saying her husband was acting strange.
“Nawe-wierdohan si Janice sa kaniya kasi nga bigla nalang sinasabi ni Christophe na (Janice was weirded out because Christophe was saying) he wants peace of mind, he wants to see God, he want to be close to God,” he said.
Mike said Janice and Christophe had a happy relationship. They have an 18-month old daughter who is now in the care of French Social Services. Mike described Christophe as kind and cheerful that is why they cannot believe he was able to hurt Janice.
Mike speculates Christophe may have been suffering from depression which led to the crime.
Janice’s father, Losito Cabardo, wants Christophe to be liable of the crime. He also wants his daughter’s remains and his granddaughter to return to the Philippines.
“Gusto ko rin na iyong bangkay ng anak ko mapadala dito. Iyong apo ko gusto ko namin na sa akin ang custody dahil iyon nalang ang nagsisilbing alaala ng anak ko na babae, (I want my daughter’s remains to returnhere. I also want our granddaughter to be in our custody, she will be the only reminder of my daughter),” he said.
According to the Philippine Embassy in France, Christophe is already in the custody of the police.
“Rest assured that the Embassy is in direct with Ms. Cabardo Badr’s next of kin in the Philippines to keep them informed of any developments,” their statement reads.
“The Embassy also remains in close coordination with the Houilles Police” the statement added.—AAC (with reports from Janice Ingente)
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