Critics pile on as Chirac approaches 'fin de regne'

5th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 4, 2006 (AFP) - With the end of his monumental career probably only months away, French President Jacques Chirac has come under fire in a series of frank and often cruel assessments, accusing him of opportunism, ideological emptiness and even treachery.

PARIS, Oct 4, 2006 (AFP) - With the end of his monumental career probably only months away, French President Jacques Chirac has come under fire in a series of frank and often cruel assessments, accusing him of opportunism, ideological emptiness and even treachery.

A major documentary released this week on DVD looks back over his path to power, while a number of new books and essays examine his complex personality — which, after nearly 12 years as president, still remains something of an enigma to most of the French.

After suffering a mild cerebral attack a year ago, and easily outranked in the polls by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, it seems highly unlikely that Chirac, 73, will seek a third term at election next year.

So the time for plain speaking has come.

The Chirac documentary, which is to be broadcast over the coming month on France 2 television, takes in the whole of his 40-year career. On display are Chirac's immense thirst for power, his exceptional campaigning skills and his numerous political flip-flops.

The president is described in uncompromising terms by his adversaries — but also by some within his own camp, such as former prime minister Raymond Barre who calls him a "chevalier of opportunism".

Balancing the picture, witnesses also describe Chirac as a "man who attracts sympathy" and a "man with heart".

Former President Valéry Giscard D'Estaing meanwhile has never forgiven his former prime minister for betraying him in 1981, when he ran for the presidency against François Mitterrand and lost.

In the third volume of his memoirs Giscard paints a picture of Chirac that seethes with resentment. "What animates him is a fanatical desire to reach the presidency," Giuscard writes. "This obsession wipes out everything else — political convictions as well as any respect for the rules."

Another attack comes from former minister François Fillon, a close ally of Sarkozy, who rails against Chirac's "opportunism" and "permanent ideological wavering".

Out this week is "The Irresponsible" by Le Monde journalist Herve Gattegno, who plunges into the detail of the politico-financial scandals surrounding the president.

"Motivated by his survival instinct" and covered by his presidential immunity, Chirac "has used the presidency to preserve his person and his power", he writes.

Chirac is also treated mercilessly in 'After de Gaulle', a collection of confidential notes kept by Jean Mauriac, son of the writer François Mauriac. Several members of the Gaullist old guard describe a man who is indecisive, impressionable and full of grudges.

These books follow the best-selling work by journalist Franz-Olivier Giesbert, who in 'The Tragedy of the President' blamed Chirac for "embodying France's decline".

For journalist Alain-Gerard Slama, the "semi-monarchical" nature of the French constitution explains this proliferation of critical attacks.

"There has never been a king who was not sacrificed by a real or symbolic murder to the greater glory of his successor," he told Le Figaro newspaper.

There may of course be a simpler explanation: with Chirac about to leave the scene, there is no longer any fear of revenge.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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