Valéry Giscard d'Estaing

27/05/197421/05/1981View on timeline

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing

Valéry Marie René Georges Giscard d'Estaing (born 2 February 1926), also known as Giscard or VGE, is a former French politician who served as President of France from 1974 to 1981.

As Minister of Finance under prime ministers Jacques Chaban-Delmas and Pierre Messmer, he won the presidential election of 1974 with 50.8% of the vote against François Mitterrand of the Socialist Party. His tenure was marked by a more liberal attitude on social issues—such as divorce, contraception and abortion—and attempts to modernise the country and the office of the presidency, notably launching such far-reaching infrastructure projects as the TGV and the turn towards reliance on nuclear power as France's main energy source. However, his popularity suffered from the economic downturn that followed the 1973 energy crisis, marking the end of the "thirty glorious years" after World War II. Giscard d'Estaing faced political opposition from both sides of the spectrum: from the newly unified left of François Mitterrand and a rising Jacques Chirac, who resurrected Gaullism on a right-wing opposition line. In 1981, despite a high approval rating, he missed out on reelection in a runoff against Mitterrand, with 48.2% of the vote.

As a former President of France, Giscard d'Estaing is a member of the Constitutional Council. He also served as President of the Regional Council of Auvergne from 1986 to 2004. Involved with the European Union, he notably presided over the Convention on the Future of Europe that drafted the ill-fated Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe. In 2003, he was elected to the Académie française, taking the seat that his friend and former President of Senegal Léopold Sédar Senghor had held. At age 94, Giscard is the longest-lived French President in history.

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Published in 9/09/2020

Updated in 19/02/2021

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