Paris, Dec 2 (efe-epa).- Former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, who governed France from 1974 and 1981, died Wednesday of Covid-19, relatives said. He was 94.
Giscard, who had been briefly hospitalized several times in recent months, died of Covid-19, according to his family.
His death was announced by his office and the French presidency on Wednesday evening.
The first French president not to emerge from Gaullism after World War II, Giscard was a member of the French social, economic and political elite, the youngest French head of state and, after leaving office, one of the most listened-to voices in French political life.
A member of the Constitutional Council until his death, Giscard’s health had deteriorated in recent months, a situation that required his hospitalization on several occasions for respiratory difficulties, and in mid-November he was treated for a cardiac problem.
Local media reported that the former president died at one of his homes in the department of Loire-et-Cher, in central France, surrounded by his family.
The National Assembly, where lawmakers were continuing their work into the late evening hours, temporarily suspended the session to observe a moment of silence in tribute to Giscard, known as VGE in France.
A very active figure up until just a few years ago, recently his delicate health kept him away from the communications media. One of his last public appearances was on Sept. 30, 2019, for the funeral of another former French president, Jacques Chirac.
Giscard was elected president at age 48 after having conducted a campaign that was very “modern” for the period, but after completing the seven years of his mandate he was soundly defeated in his reelection bid by socialist candidate Francois Mitterrand.
Several controversies marked his term in office, in particular the 1979 corruption charge that he had received diamonds, while serving as finance minister, from the brutal dictator of the Central African Republic, Jean-Bedel Bokassa, a charge he consistently denied.
Despite several attempts to win the presidency again, Giscard never managed to do so and devoted his attentions to his region, Auvergne, but he also focused his efforts on European affairs, presiding over the convention tasked with drafting the European Constitution at the beginning of this century.
During his last months, his name once again reappeared in the press after a German journalist accused him of sexual abuse.
His death prompted reaction from across the political spectrum in France.
Former conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, with whom Giscard had a close relationship, expressed his “deep sadness” over the death of “a man who honored France.”
“He worked his entire life to strengthen the links among the European nations, he sought – and was able – to modernize political life and devoted his great intelligence to analyzing the most complex international problems,” Sarkozy said on Twitter.
Also on Twitter, Sarkozy’s socialist successor, Francois Hollande, said that Giscard was “the man who modernized France” thanks to the “great reforms” he introduced, adding that he considered him to be a “committed European.”
“He was a partisan of an ‘advanced’ liberalism, he clashed with the hardline conservatism of a part of his party and against the desire for change the left represented,” said Hollande.
Ultrarightist leader Marine Le Pen said that “in a France in crisis, he was the artisan of new public freedoms and ardent support for technological progress.”
The leader of France’s Greens and a European Parliament member, Yannick Jadot, emphasized some of Giscard’s reforms in his own statement, including the decriminalization of abortion and lowering the voting age to 18.
Giscard, at his death, was the oldest former French president in history at 94 years and 304 days.