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Some time ago, it was reported...and commented upon....that ex-President Chirac was getting rid of his dog, a bichon given him by his grandson, which had apparently turned vicious when deprived of life in the Presidential palace and confined to a luxury apartment in Paris paid for by M. Chirac's foreign friends.
I wondered at the time whatever was going on in the Chirac household, and now we have the answer.
They could not afford to feed it.
No wonder it was taking a grab at the ex-Presidential stomach...it was hoping for something to eat.
Before Monsieur Chirac became Monsieur le President, he was Monsieur le Maire....Mayor of Paris.
In those palmy days, the municipality of Paris awarded its' maire an allowance of some 3,000 francs - about 375 pounds - a day - to maintain himself and his family above the poverty line.
You can buy quite a bit of dog food with that.
Appreciative of being so well treated, Mr. Chirac spread the goodwill about.
As Mayor, he sought to improve local services by having the council 'employ' some 500 consultants....a number of whom, not unnaturally, belonged to the same political party as the Maire.
Unkind tongues suggested that some of these consultants did very little or nothing for their money.
Which was probably as well since few of them had any qualifications which would fit them for these posts.
If only Edith Cresson - other side of the political divide from Mr. Chirac - had had the sense just to pay her dentist instead of giving him a consultancy job when she was a European Commissioner.....and then getting the poor man to produce a report on something of which it was evident he knew nothing....she might not have had to resign.
Mr. Chirac was more intelligent. His - sorry, the city of Paris' - consultants stayed mum and Mr. Chirac stayed mayor.
Then Mr. Chirac became Monsieur le President and moved into the Elysee Palace, his official residence.
He and his family continued to be maintained above the poverty line, but this time the whole country paid, not just the Parisians.
He could afford to feed the dog his grandson gave him.
Unfortunately, his successor as Mayor of Paris, while being of the same political persuasion as President Chirac, followed the consultancy practices of Madame Cresson.
He asked his consultants...who included his wife...to produce something with which to justify their fees.
The results were as one might imagine.
Unkind tongues began to wag again, and investigative magistrates started poking their noses where no self respecting person would poke the end of their walking sticks...into the internal affairs of the city of Paris.
They came to the conclusion that not only had the then maire paid people who produced no benefit whatsoever to the city of Paris but that his predecessor, Mr. Chirac had done so too.
Fictitious employment was the term used.
The maire of Paris found himself in legal hot water.
But not Mr. Chirac.
He was by then, after all, President Chirac, and the President of France has immunity from being hauled before French courts.
Time passed...a young politician called Sarkozy started dating the President's daughter before dumping her for being too dumpy.
Relations became strained between Mr. Chirac and Mr. Sarkozy.
President Chirac finally called it a day and gave his backing to his unelected Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, as the candidate to succeed him in preference to Mr. Sarkozy.
Dirty tricks dogged the Sarkozy campaign, but he became the party's candidate and, in his turn, President.
President Sarkozy took great umbrage at the dirty tricks campaign, and was delighted when it was suggested to investigative magistrates that Mr. de Villepin had been instrumental in organising some of them as discussed here.
While it was suggested that Mr.Chirac might have information which would assist Mr. de Villepin, he was not called upon to testify, and did not volunteer any information either.
Mr. de Villepin was exonerated and the state is appealing the verdict.
Investigative magistrates have long memories.
Having patiently waited during the years of the immunity from prosecution of President Chirac, once he was again just Mr. Chirac they reopened the dossier and found that, in their view, public money had been improperly used in 21 cases of fictitious employment while Mr. Chirac had been M. le Maire.
Mr. Chirac denies all impropriety, and the state prosecutor appears to side with him, stating that he sees no case to answer, but the city of Paris, under new political management, launched a civil claim for 2.2 million euros which is what it reckons the fictitious employment cost the ratepayers of Paris.
President Sarkozy went to see Mr. Chirac recently, to discuss the problem and it appears that a solution has been found.
Mr. Chirac has announced that, while he did nothing wrong, he is willing to repay the money on condition that the city of Paris drops its' civil claim.
The City of Paris has been happy to do so.
That leaves just the prosecutor...who is convinced of Mr. Chirac's innocence.... to plead the case before the court, so there doesn't appear to be much risk from that quarter.
Questions remain, however.
Why, if innocent, would Mr. Chirac offer to pay up?
And how is Mr. Chirac, whose daily subsistence is no longer being paid by the taxpayer, to find such a huge sum?
He'd have to economise on an awful lot of dog biscuits.
It's not as if he can do much to reduce his expenses.
He is living on the charity of his friends as it is.
His friends pay for the frequent flights in first class to Japan for himself and his family, where he is rumoured to be very interested in the interior decor of a bank.....
They allow him to squat in a luxury apartment in Paris.....
So the only way in which he could possibly economise was to part with the dog.
Not that the dog was capable of eating 2.2 million euros worth of biscuits.
Ridiculous even to think so.
The little bichon could only consume 550,000 Euros' worth...the sum Mr. Chirac is proposing to pay from his own pocket.
The rest of the money?
Well, this is coming from the UMP, the party of both President Sarkozy and ex-President Chirac.
I am not convinced that the party faithful are too chuffed about money on this scale being handed over to the socialists who control Paris at the moment, any more than I am convinced that President Sarkozy would have willingly rescued his predecessor, but this is politics, after all.
Sarkozy is not too popular with his party after the regional election debacle, and needs to sooth the troubled breasts....thus his support for the idea of supporting Chirac, idol of the bottom patting classes.
Cows that is.
At agricultural shows.
What about the party faithful?
Well, they won't want an innocent man to be financially broken by the demands of his political opponents, but it must be a blow to the party finances.
Thanks to the revelations spilling over from internecine strife in the family of the Oreal heiress, it seems that folding money in brown envelopes was used to finance quite a bit of UMP activity.....even though all large donations are supposed to be declared and very large donations are banned, as tending to notions of corruption.
However, there are other ways.
Almost every French politician worth naming has his own political party, apart from the one he supports.
These micro parties campaign for donations, and then, quite legitimately, pass these on to the main party set up...in this case, the UMP.
So the money necessary to rescue Mr. Chirac from the consequences of what he has not done will be forthcoming without too much pain, although the sale of brown envelopes will be on the rise as the well heeled await the visit of their local politician.
This case makes you count your blessings.
When you're sitting at home this winter, in the part of the house you can afford to heat contemplating the electricity bill with the cat on your knee, just imagine what it must be like to be an ex-President, dependent on others for the very roof over your head and forced to part with a beloved pet.
Your heart bleeds, doesn't it?