Frontrunners say Chirac decision is end of an era

12th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 11, 2007 (AFP) - Frontrunners in France's presidential election battle said that incumbent Jacques Chirac's decision to retire was the end of an era, but others slammed his political legacy.

PARIS, March 11, 2007 (AFP) - Frontrunners in France's presidential election battle said that incumbent Jacques Chirac's decision to retire was the end of an era, but others slammed his political legacy.

Socialist leader Segolene Royal and centrist Francois Bayrou, a former education minister under Chirac, hailed the president's years of service.

Royal said: "It is a historic moment because a page of history is about to turn. A new page is about to open and the French themselves are going to write it," she said.

Bayrou acknowledged past confrontations with Chirac, but added: "Tonight above all, I take my hat off to him."

He said that "on foreign policy he was an honorable voice, and a great voice at the moments when France needed one" -- a clear reference to Chirac's defiance of the US over Iraq.

Right-wing firebrand Jean-Marie Le Pen celebrated the departure of his "worst enemy" and slammed Chirac as corrupt, in reference to scandals dating back to his time as mayor of Paris.

Chirac was "the worst president in the history of France. I am delighted to be losing my biggest enemy," said Le Pen who stunned the French establishment by reaching the second round of the last presidential election in 2002.

He added that Chirac had "led the country to disaster" and stood as a "symbol of political corruption."

In no less critical tones, former Socialist prime minister Laurent Fabius said the Chirac era had been "wasted."

"His long presidency has lost France a lot of time. This is what strikes me most: in relation to the major problems facing France and Europe, a presidency of wasted time," he said.

A notable absentee from the chorus of reactions to Chirac's retirement was his former protegee Nicolas Sarkozy, the leading candidate in the election race.

Sarkozy leads Chirac's ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) but the two have fallen out and Chirac has not endorsed Sarkozy's election bid.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, President Jacques Chirac

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