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The Chirac family’s love-hate relationship with Sarkozy

AFP archive picture: Jacques Chirac with wife Bernadette (left) and daughter Claude (left)
3 min

Former French president Jacques Chirac’s family is divided over which candidate should challenge the deeply unpopular François Hollande in the 2017 presidential election, with some backing ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy and others a political rival.

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The former centre-right president, who makes few public appearances due to his increasingly frail health, on Thursday came out in support of his former prime minister and political protégé Alain Juppé.

Chirac’s wife Bernadette, meanwhile, is a big fan of Nicolas Sarkozy's (the feeling, apparently, is mutual), who was Chirac’s interior minister before becoming president in 2007.

Not so her daughter Claude, with whom Sarkozy is rumoured to have had a brief relationship following the untimely death of her first husband in 1993. She has subsequently denied “ever having been Sarkozy’s mistress”.

As her father’s official adviser since 1995 she has maintained a frosty distance from Sarkozy, whose return to power she strongly opposes.

Sarkozy announced his intention to seek the leadership of the conservative UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) party late last month in a move that many believe will pave the way for him to launch a fresh bid for the presidency in 2017.

Juppé – who, at various points in his career, has served as France’s prime minister, foreign minister and defence minister – said in August that he would seek the UMP nomination.

The news came as Socialist President François Hollande’s approval rating hit a record low of 13 percent, further securing his status as the most unpopular president in France since World War Two.

‘I would rather vote for Hollande’

Jacques Chirac sings from the same hymn sheet as his daughter, and relations between the two men are reported to be “execrable”.

In the run-up to the 2012 presidential election – which the centre-right Sarkozy narrowly lost to Hollande – the conservative Chirac famously told reporters that his distaste for Sarkozy was such that he would “rather vote for Hollande", a Socialist.

"Unless Juppé presents himself [as a candidate], because I rather like Juppé,” he added.

Conservative daily le Figaro quoted Chirac as saying Thursday that Juppé was “the best among us”.

“Few things could make me happier – for myself, for him and, above all, for our country – than [to see him become president],” he told the newspaper in a rare interview.

“If I had the energy, I would already have booked my place, even a minor one, in the headquarters [of the Juppé campaign]," Chirac said.

‘Juppé is very, very cold’ says Bernadette

Chirac’s wife holds a different opinion. On Monday she told Europe 1 radio that Juppé was “very, very cold and doesn’t attract people”.

“What has he got on Nicolas Sarkozy?” she asked. “Alain Juppé would have to try very hard to be as successful as he is.”

The satirical and investigative newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné on Wednesday quoted her as saying that Sarkozy himself was keen for a rapprochement with his former boss.

“He absolutely wants to reconcile with Jacques,” Mrs Chirac reportedly told friends. “He is doing everything possible to get me to organise a meeting with him. He even said he would be prepared to do it in secret.”

 

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