The former French president, Jacques Chirac, has died “peacefully” at the age of 86, his family said. The conservative politician led France between 1995 and 2007.
French former-President Jacques Chirac, a center-right politician who led the country between 1995 and 2007, passed away on Thursday at the age of 86.
The veteran politician “died this morning surrounded by his family, peacefully,” his son-in-law Frederic Salat-Baroux told the AFP news agency. He did not specify the cause of death.
Born a Parisian, Chirac served as mayor in the French capital and had two stints as prime minister before taking the highest office in 1995. He earned the nickname “Le Bulldozer” early in his career due to his drive and ambition.
Minute of silence in parliament
French President Emmanuel Macron hailed Chirac as a “great Frenchman” who had “embodied” France.
“We French have lost a statesman whom we loved as much as he loved us,” Macron said in an address to the nation from the Elysee Palace. “Whether we share, or not, his ideas or what he fought for, we all recognize ourselves in this man who resembled us, and brought us together.”
Members of France’s National Assembly stood for a minute of silence after hearing the news, which was shared by the parliamentary president, Richard Ferrand.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “very sad” over Chirac’s death.
“He was an extraordinary partner and friend to Germans and to me personally,” she said in a statement published on Twitter by her spokesman Steffen Seibert.
“I mourn a great statesman and European with his family and with the French people.”
Separately, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he was “moved and devastated” to learn of Chirac’s death.
“Europe is not only losing a great statesman but the president [Juncker] is losing a great friend,” European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin praised Chirac as “wise and far-sighted.”
“In Russia, he will be remembered for his large personal contribution to boosting friendly ties between our countries,” he said in a message expressing his condolences to Chirac’s widow.
Sentenced for graft
Chirac’s health had been deteriorating ever since he suffered a stroke in 2005 while still in office. He has largely stayed outside the public eye after being succeeded by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007.
After losing his presidential immunity, he faced corruption charges, including misusing public money, during his time as mayor of Paris. He was found guilty in 2011 and given a two-year suspended jail sentence.
Chirac was unable to attend the trial, with his doctors claiming he has “severe and irreversible” neurological problems. The former president “categorically” rejected the ruling, but said he would not appeal because he no longer had the “strength necessary to lead the combat for the truth.”