Jacques Chirac, the French
president, has urged the country to remain “united and together”
after he hands over to Nicolas Sarkozy, in a televised speech on his last day
Chirac leaves the presidency after 12 years in office.
One of Chirac's last acts
as president was to accept the resignation of Dominique de
Villepin, the prime minister and the cabinet, clearing the way for Sarkozy to
nominate a new government later this week.
Jacques Chirac has had a long and chequered career, he was
mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995 and has been named in several cases of alleged
corruption and abuse, including Vote rigging in Paris, manipulated
biddings for public procurement, Paris public housing projects, High schools
and other works of the Île-de-France region, fictional jobs in government
offices, (some people paid by the city government actually worked (full
time) for the RPR party), Illegal use of government services and usage of City of Paris
gardening services for private purposes, some of which have already led
to felony convictions.
Chirac, as current president of France,
enjoys virtual immunity from prosecution for acts preceding his tenure as
president, following from decision 98-408 DC of the Constitutional Council on January 22, 1999.
This decision itself was highly controversial: the council was consulted on
the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court, not about the status
of the president with respect to the national criminal justice system. At the
time, the president of the council was Roland Dumas, who later had to retire
from his functions because of his implication in the Elf Aquitaine scandal.
Chirac has previously refused to testify before investigating magistrate Éric Halphen,
arguing that this would be incompatible with his presidential functions, but
with the end of Chirac’s tenure, his immunity also comes to an
On October 10, 2001,
the Court of Cassation ruled that, while the president cannot be prosecuted by
normal judicial means during his mandate, such an impossibility suspends the
delays of prescription (statute of limitation). If Chirac does not run for
office again in 2007 or is not re-elected, he may then be prosecuted on the
several affairs he is involved in. This might explain why in 2003 some in the
presidential entourage floated around the idea of Chirac running for a third term.
Lets see whether the Police turn up for Chirac, or whether his friends can convince Sarkozy that a pardon is in the national interests.