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Chirac revives call for constitutional changes on legal status of all French presidents

Chirac revives call for constitutional changes on legal status of all French presidents

President Jacques Chirac, under pressure from Socialist opponents, urged parliament Wednesday to clear up the legal status of the head of state _ an issue that has dogged the French leader himself.
Chirac said he wants lawmakers to take up his long-promised constitutional reform plan, according to government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope, relaying the president's comments to the Cabinet. It would bar judges from summoning a serving president to testify and enshrine a U.S.-style impeachment system.
The issue has particular resonance for Chirac.
During his first term as president from 1995 to 2002, Chirac was linked to several scandals during his 18-year tenure as Paris mayor. An investigating judge tried to hold him to account in 2001, but France's highest court said Chirac had nearly blanket immunity from prosecution while serving as chief of state.
On his re-election campaign trail, Chirac pledged the constitutional reform on the legal status of the head of state. Any changes would only affect future presidents. The bill has not been sent to parliament since the Cabinet approved it in 2003, and some lawmakers say the legislative docket is too full for it to be in the current session.
"This was a commitment of Jacques Chirac in the election campaign of 2002," Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande said Tuesday, "today, we're told: 'nothing's going to be discussed by the end of the session'" in February.
Chirac, in the final year of his second term and unlikely to seek a third, could be called to answer questions about the scandals if he loses presidential immunity next year after leaving office.
Opponents expressed outrage last month when Chirac named his former legal counsel as chief public prosecutor of Paris, with Hollande alleging that the president was seeking "to protect himself from future legal action."
Cope responded by saying he was "shocked" by the uproar, and defended the magistrate's credentials and ethics.
Chirac is under scrutiny in several scandals focusing on his tenure as Paris mayor from 1977-1995. Some have led to convictions of former city officials. The trial of a close ally of Chirac and 14 others charged with electoral fraud in municipal elections in Paris in 1989 and 1995 got under way last month.


Updated : 2021-04-20 18:08 GMT+08:00