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Former President Jacques Chirac, in 2011. © AFP

Former President Jacques Chirac died on Thursday 26 September at the age of 86. With him disappears a real "monument" of French political life. According to a poll conducted in spring 2015, Jacques Chirac was the favorite French head of state.

For more than four decades, Jacques Chirac has accompanied the life of the French, holding the most impressive course in duration of the Fifth Republic, with 42 years of uninterrupted political life: twice prime minister, 18 years mayor of Paris and especially, of course, twice President of the Republic. A true record of political longevity and an extraordinary destiny for this fighter who has managed to capture the affection of the French and their recognition despite a poor balance after 12 years at the head of the state.

Jacques Chirac will have especially marked his fellow citizens by his action on the international scene. One of the great achievements of his presidency will undoubtedly be his opposition to the American war in Iraq in 2003, when he donned the clothes of "peace fighter" against George W. Bush. This episode will earn him a record popularity in France, Europe and the Arab world.

Mixed assessment on the domestic scene

On the other hand, the balance sheet is much more mixed on the domestic scene. In May 1995, the promise to reduce the "social divide" opened the doors of the Élysée. Jacques Chirac is then the destroyer of the single thought, based on the reduction of the deficits. But in October, he puts the emphasis on fiscal discipline. Follow the unpopular reforms of his Prime Minister Alain Juppé on pensions and health insurance. France then plunged into three weeks of strikes and demonstrations.

The failed dissolution of the National Assembly in 1997 marked a halt to its policy. The scathing defeat of his camp forced him to coexist for five years with the Socialist Lionel Jospin as Prime Minister.

At the end of this first term, Jacques Chirac is nevertheless reelected with more than 82% of the votes against Jean-Marie Le Pen, after the thunderclap that was the qualification of the leader of the National Front in the second round. From then on, the electoral setbacks succeed one another. In the regional and European elections in 2004, the UMP suffered a stinging defeat. In May 2005, the French disavow him again by rejecting by referendum the draft European Constitution.

The end of the year is also marked by urban violence and the following spring by the crisis on the CPE, the first job contract, carried by the head of government Dominique de Villepin and finally abandoned. The renovation of the social model will remain one of his main regrets, one of his main failures.

His second term will end with a thinning on the front of unemployment, and the success of some major projects such as the fight against cancer and unsafe roads. Breaking with his predecessors, Jacques Chirac has also sought to assume the dark pages of the history of the country, recognizing in particular the responsibility of the French state in the deportation of Jews under the Vichy regime.

Shadow shares of the French favorite

" Warm, always attentive to others, " according to his friends; " Versatile and visionless " for his detractors, Jacques Chirac has been a real "political animal", a fighter who will eventually forge a fate out of the ordinary with also its shadow.

The famous cases that will literally spoil his second term and will even be worth an indictment at his exit from the Elysee, in the case of "fictitious jobs" at the City of Paris, a first for a former head of state .

There are also his more intimate wounds, the anorexia of the girl " the great tragedy of his life ", as he will leave it at the end of his term. Nothing, however, that will stop this bulimic of power and the devourer of life: the " bulldozer ", as Pompidou called him, the " great ", as his friends called him. More than 1.90 meters of energy, good living, beer lover and veal head, but also a lover of Africa, passionate Asian, amateur sumo and great defender of " forgotten peoples ".

Jacques Chirac the warm, friendly man, the great seducer of these ladies too, had become, with retirement and illness, the favorite politician of the French.