Tomorrow morning, the new president of France will be sworn in. So, this evening at eight o'clock, Jacques Chirac spent five minutes on TV saying Au revoir to the nation, and conveying his best wishes to Nicolas Sarkozy.
What will History retain of Chirac's twelve years as the head of the French Republic? Everybody praises Chirac for his honesty and courage in acknowledging retrospectively the criminal role played by the French government of Vichy during the Occupation. In a different domain, he remains admired for his opposition, right from the start, to the absurd war in Iraq. But there were failures in Chirac's presidency, notably the negative outcome of the French referendum on Europe.
Concerning Chirac's personal future, many news commentators have been borrowing the image of former US president Bill Clinton as a likely role model. That's to say, Chirac could well transform himself into a kind of itinerant ambassador promoting themes such as sustainable development [click here to see the Wikipedia page on this subject] and the economic evolution of Africa.
Unexpectedly, on the eve of the new presidency, there was some nearby rumbling of legal artillery concerning a dark era in Chirac's past, when he was the mayor of Paris. The National Division of Financial Investigations at Nanterre summoned Alain Juppé, Chirac's former right-hand man at the city hall of Paris, as a witness in the context of the affair concerning individuals who were paid a salary by the city hall while working in fact for Chirac's political party. Juppé was condemned for this affair in 2004, whereas Chirac himself has never been troubled up until now, because of his presidential immunity.
If ever this affair were to explode at the start of Sarkozy's presidency, it would create a delicate and embarrassing climate, to say the least. As we all know, judges throughout the world have no special respect for former presidents... even in the USA.