Former French President Jacques Chirac, who led France from 1995 to 2007, has died at the age of 86, his family and Agence France Presse news agency reported on Thursday.
Energetic, engaging and passionate for power, Chirac has been at the centre of French politics for nearly half a century and has had dealings with every world leader since Leonid Brezhnev ruled the Soviet Union.
Chirac was twice president, twice prime minister and spent 18 years as mayor of Paris.
During his 12 years as president, Chirac ended compulsory military service, stood firm against the increasingly popular far right and was the first president to acknowledge that France’s Vichy regime had assisted the Nazis in World War II.
Despite many ups and downs, he has remained a popular figure with a solid base of affection.
A poll once said he was the politician most French people would like to have dinner with.
He also played an important role in ending the civil war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s and won widespread popularity in the Arab world for the way he stood up to George Bush, the US president, over the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
His career was marked by policy changes, which won him the nickname the ‘Chameleon Bonaparte’ or ‘La Girouette’ (The weathervane).
At one point, he fiercely opposed the EU, then supported it; he used to champion US-style free-market economics, then promoted protectionism.
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