France: Final farewell for Chirac in family’s home village

Former French President Jacques Chirac's family bade him a final farewell Saturday at an intimate ceremony in the southwestern village where he grew up.

France: Final farewell for Chirac in family's home village

“I can only say thank you in the name of my father and mother,” the statesman's daughter Claude Chirac said in a tearful address at Sainte-Fereole, a small village in the Chirac fiefdom of the Correze region.

“In childhood and adolescence, Jacques Chirac was made here,” said mayor Henri Soulier.

Born in Paris, Chirac, who died aged 86 on September 26, moved as a young boy to Sainte-Fereole where he was elected a municipal councillor in 1965 before becoming a Correze lawmaker two years later.

He continued to represent the Correze department until becoming president in 1995, serving as head of state until 2007.

Chirac's widow Bernadette, 86, did not attend the gathering of some 200 people in a picturesque village square decked out in portraits of the former president showing key moments of his life in public service.

Soulier said he had proposed and Chirac's family had agreed to rename the square after him in the village which they had insisted would be the site of the final homage to his life.

Prior to the ceremony, local leaders had accompanied the family to lay a wreath at the tomb of Chirac's parents.

The group then stopped by the village hall and the family home, of which Claude Chirac's husband Frederic Salat-Baroux vowed “we shall never sell this house. One is always from somewhere and, for Claude, that's here.”

Claude recalled how she was “often at Sainte-Fereole with Laurence,” Chirac's other daughter, who died in 2016.

“We would leave Paris on Friday and our parents would leave us there before travelling around the department,” she recalled.

“My mother is very emotional today that she cannot come … it's an exceptional homage. It is very comforting to her. And I want to say thank you for that because she really needs it,” Claude said.

Local authorities said meanwhile some 3,000 people had participated in a day of “memory and friendship” to honour Chirac at nearby Sarran, where Bernadette was first elected a municipal councillor in 1971 and which houses a museum dedicated to his life.

Among those attending Saturday was former Socialist president Francois Hollande, who was a political rival of Chirac in Correze, as well as Chirac's grandson Martin Rey-Chirac.

Dozens of world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, last Monday paid their final respects at a funeral service in Paris alongside dignitaries including former US president Bill Clinton, a day after 7,000 people queued to view Chirac's coffin at Invalides military hospital and museum.

He was then laid to rest at a cemetery at Montparnasse in Paris.

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Six months on: Macron unpopular but in control

In his first six months in power, French President Emmanuel Macron has chalked up one reform after another in a whirlwind that has nevertheless seen his poll numbers plummet.

Six months on: Macron unpopular but in control
Photo: AFP
The former investment banker's stunning rise cast aside France's traditional left and right, creating a solid centrist front for his new
Republic on the Move (REM) party.
In short order, the 39-year-old has scored three major legislative triumphs, beginning with a law to clean up politics, followed by flagship reforms to France's complex labour code and a controversial anti-terror law.
The labour reforms sparked strikes and street protests, but they paled in comparison with those that have thwarted similar attempts by his predecessors.
But the young leader's zeal for reforms — and the use of executive decrees to overhaul the labour code, seen as a strong-arm tactic — has come with a cost.

French anti-terror bill explained: How emergency powers are now lawPhoto: AFP

The man who won two-thirds of the vote in May has an approval rating of just 32 percent in a YouGov poll out November 2.
But insiders says his poll standings do not worry him.
Long-term view
“He has a very long-term outlook and won't give up,” one close associate said.
The 2017 election left Hollande's Socialist Party in disarray, while the right-wing Republicans party is split between those who joined Macron's REM, such as Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, and those who want to stay in opposition.
Macron faces a tricky balancing act as he seeks to lower taxes while also slashing the deficit — something he sees as key to earning credibility with European leaders as he pushes for ambitious EU reforms.
Next on Macron's frenetic agenda are reforms to unemployment insurance, professional training, housing policy and academic selection.
Also in the pipeline are pension reform and a move to shrink parliament, where 577 people sit in the lower house and another 348 in the indirectly elected Senate.
Coming after two unpopular one-term presidents — the ineffectual Francois Hollande, preceded by the brash Nicolas Sarkozy — Macron is seeking to restore grandeur to the office and return France to prominence on the world stage.
Macron has called on EU member states to go much further in linking their economies, governments and armies, proposing a joint defence force, as well as new agencies for asylum and innovation and ideas for tax reform.
The Macron juggernaut has left little room for opposition.
French labour reforms: What's actually going to change for workers in France
Photo: AFP   
Neither the unions nor the radical left Unbowed France (LFI) party managed to head off the labour reforms that took effect in September.
LFI head Jean-Luc Melenchon himself admitted recently: “For now, he has the upper hand.”
For its part, the far-right National Front of Marine Le Pen is still reeling from her rout at the hands of Macron and intense in-fighting.
But the woes of his opponents do little to boost Macron's popularity as he struggles with charges of being the “president of the rich”.
The label has gained traction since he slashed a wealth tax while at the same time trimming housing benefits for students.
Elections far off
He hopes to correct the impression with changes that would benefit the middle class and the underprivileged, such as a lower social charges and residence taxes.
But Macron has come under fire for a series of comments seen as arrogant or out of touch.
Protesters seized on a remark directed at critics of his labour reforms, whom he called “slackers”, which spawned slogans such as “slackers of the world unite”.
Political scientist Bruno Cautres of the Cevipof think tank at Sciences Po university in Paris thinks that time is on Macron's side.
No elections are slated until the European Parliament vote in 2019, while the economy is looking up, Cautres noted.
Besides, a recent poll found that one in two French are willing to give
Macron more time to prove he is putting France on the right track.
But US news magazine Time took a tongue-in-cheek swipe at Macron's seemingly outsized ambition.
On a recent cover the weekly billed Macron as “the next leader of Europe — if only he can lead France”.