Will he or won’t he? The French President Jacques Chirac is due to announce today whether he’ll be standing for re-election. Given that he is now 74 years old, and his ratings are low in the polls, observers say it’s likely to be “no”. After his first election to the Elysee Palace in 1995 the honeymoon soon ended and he had to deal with social unrest. What followed was a difficult period of what they called co-habitation – a president on the right and a left-wing government.
In 2002 he faced a second election round with the far-right leader Jean Marie Le Pen. The Socialists urged their supporters to block Le Pen by voting for Chirac. His victory was overwhelming. The final part of his current mandate has also been difficult: riots that made headlines around the world, France’s rejection of the European constitution and the pressure of taking a leading position on the world stage against the war in Iraq.
Few will dispute the fact that Chirac has been a model statesman, very comfortable meeting other world leaders. If he decides not to stand in these new polls the big question will be whether he will throw his weight behind the leading candidate on the right, Nicolas Sarkozy, a man with whom his working relations have been difficult.