Jacques René Chirac came from an affluent Parisian background, and was trained at France’s elite Ecole Nationale d’Administration.
He became a policy adviser to Prime Minister Georges Pompidou from 1962, and then held successive ministerial posts between 1967 and 1973, gaining the nickname ”the Bulldozer” .
He supported Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the non-Gaullist centre-right presidential candidate, in 1974, but subsequent disagreements led to his resignation as Giscard’s first prime minister in 1976.
Chirac led the Gaullist party from 1974 to 1995, re-founding it in 1976 as the Rassemblement pour la République (RPR). He also served as the first elected mayor of Paris between 1977 and 1995.
After converting the RPR to neo-liberal economic policies and to further European integration, Chirac led the right to electoral victory in 1986 – ”co-habiting” with the socialist president François Mitterrand.
His government brought in major privatisations prior to the 1987 stock-market crash, but ceded ground over proposed nationality and university reforms.
In 1993 he declined the premiership (which went to his former finance minister Edouard Balladur). In 1995, having twice stood unsuccessfully against Mitterrand for the presidency in 1981 and 1988, he was able to outdistance the socialist Lionel Jospin (and, on the first ballot, Balladur).
Controversially, he decided temporarily to resume Pacific nuclear testing in late 1995.
With his government increasingly unpopular over welfare cutbacks – linked to meeting the Maastricht criteria for European Monetary Union – Chirac miscalculated in calling early parliamentary elections in June 1997, the Left’s victory leading him into ”co-habitation” with a government led by Lionel Jospin.