Paris Mayor Jacques Chirac was elected France’s president Sunday in a significant victory severing a 14-year Socialist lock on the office and completing a conservative sweep of political power begun with legislative elections two years ago.
With an 80 percent turnout on a summerlike day, voters favored Chirac, a two-time prime minister and political veteran, over Lionel Jospin, the 57-year-old Socialist challenger, by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent.
Chirac, who had lost the last two presidential elections to Socialist Francois Mitterrand, will succeed his 78-year-old nemesis, who is ill with prostate cancer and did not seek reelection. Chirac, 62, becomes the fifth president in the history of the Fifth Republic, created by Charles de Gaulle after World War II, and the first Gaullist in 21 years.
For Americans, the new era in France is unlikely to mean any significant change of policy. Chirac, who speaks English and, as a youth, attended summer school at Harvard University, has promised to maintain France’s strong and generally friendly ties with both the United States and Germany, two of its most important allies.
As Chirac supporters filled the streets, honking car horns and leaping for joy in fountains around Paris, the relaxed president-elect appeared beneath the crystal chandeliers of the packed grand salon at City Hall.
“I express my deep gratitude to those who have voted for me, and I salute all the others with respect,” he said.