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The Debate

The Chirac era: The life and times of France's former president

The bells of Notre Dame have tolled for Jacques Chirac. The Cathedral honoured the former French president, a figure whose popularity was reaffirmed by the long lines that extended outside Invalides until dawn so citizens could file past his coffin one last time. Why the popular outpouring for a leader who sidestepped the limelight for over a decade and who was not always so popular while in office?

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With all living French presidents in attendance at the funeral, we reflect on Chirac's place in history. The Chirac years were a time when politics revolved around big tent centre-right and centre-left parties, and the post-Cold War years too.

Also in attendance, world leaders past and present such as Russia's Vladimir Putin and former US president Bill Clinton. The current occupant of the White House, however, sent no major emissary to Paris. We examine why and - since life does go on - ask what sort of sideline diplomacy this moment offers.

Produced by Alessandro XENOS, Juliette LAURAIN and Ingri BERGO

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