Source: China State Council Information Office
Figures from French political life and world leaders paid homage to France’s former president Jacques Chirac who died on Thursday at the age of 86.
The center-right politician was best known for his opposition to the 2003 U.S.-led military operation on Iraq, a decision which had drew admiration at home but strained diplomatic ties between Paris and Washington.
French President Emmanuel Macron is due to make a televised address later in the day after he has cancelled a visit to southwestern France where he planned a debate on pension reform.
Early Thursday, the National Assembly, the parliament’s lower house, suspended a sitting to observe a minute’s silence.
“Jacques Chirac is now a part of the history of France. A France in his image: full of energy, complex, sometimes full of contradictions, always motivated by a tireless passion for the Republic,” said Richard Ferrand, president of the National Assembly.
Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris hailed a “statesman out of norms, a great humanist figure (who) marked the history of our country.”
“Today Paris is in mourning. As a tribute to his memory, the flags of all municipal buildings will be half-masted,” Hidalgo tweeted.
Marine Le Pen, the head of far-right party the National Rally, said that “despite all the differences” she paid tribute to “a president who was able to oppose the madness of the war in Iraq, reviving France’s traditional position of balance and diplomacy.”
Like French politicians that have expressed their “great emotion,” world leaders also voiced sadness in a deluge of messages.
“Europe does not only lose a great head of state, but also a close friend,” Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, wrote in a Twitter message.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “very saddened” by Chirac death, hailing “a great partner and friend.”
“Jacques Chirac has earned the deserved respect of his compatriots and a high international authority as a wise and visionary leader who has always defended the interests of his country,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
Albanian President Ilir Meta on Thursday said he “deeply saddened” to learn of the passing away of Chirac. He expressed his condolences to the family, friends and all the French people for this loss.
Born in Paris in 1932, Chirac was the only kid of a middle-class family. His father was a bank manager who became managing director of the Dassault aircraft company. His mother was a housewife.
Chirac, nicknamed “the Bulldozer” for his skills at getting things done and to his abrasive manner, was graduated from France’s prestigious Ecole nationale d’administration (ENA).
He began his political career in the 1960s when he was named head of the personal staff of Gaullist Prime Minister Georges Pompidou who had considered him as his “protege”.
At the age of 41, he was nominated prime minister in 1974 under President Valery Giscard d’Estaing. Following a disagreement over the extent of his powers, he quit two years later and created his own party, the Rally for the Republic (RPR), which changed name to the Union for a Popular Majority (UMP), and now becomes The Republicans.
From 1977 to 1995, he was elected the mayor of Paris before starting 12-year career at the Elysee Palace.
Under Chirac’s leadership, France entered into the single-currency European bloc and shortened the presidential term of office from seven to five years via a referendum in 2000. On international stage, he was remembered as a statesman who defended peace notably by opposing the Iraqi war in 2003.
Inheriting the legacy of General Charles de Gaulle, Chirac in 2003 firmly voiced France’s opposition to the U.S.-led war on Iraq, leading the French government at the forefront of the anti-war camp. He insisted that “the Iraq war is not inevitable” and had the foresight in warning an increase in terrorist activities, which earned France an unprecedented reputation in the world, especially in the Arab world.
Chirac who had dominated France’s political landscape for over a decade, was rarely seen in public in the last years of his life after his health had deteriorated.