Former French President Jacques Chirac Dies

Former French President Jacques Chirac has died at age 86.

Chirac was president of France for 12 consecutive years, from 1995 to 2007, and helped to strengthen France’s status as a player on the world stage. The National Assembly in Paris interrupted a sitting to hold a minute’s silence in his memory on Thursday. Current French President Emmanuel Macron canceled a public engagement and scheduled a televised address to the public later on Thursday.

Before becoming French President, Chirac served as Mayor of Paris for 18 years. In politics, he portrayed himself as a simple man of the people, an image that enabled him to connect with voters, particularly in rural France.

Internationally, Chirac will be remembered for opposing the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2001, a military campaign that turned Chirac’s relationship with then British Prime Minister Tony Blair into an acrimonious one.

In Europe, Chirac became one of the bloc’s main standard bearers. He forged an alliance with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that brought Europe’s two traditional powers closer together but upset some of their European Union partners.

Five years after leaving office, Chirac was found guilty in December 2012 of abusing public funds when Mayor of Paris, making him the first head of state convicted of a crime since Nazi collaborator Marshal Philippe Petain in 1945. But Chirac served no jail time and paid no fines, and the conviction did not seem to hurt his popularity with the French people.