Jean-Pierre Raffarin

Jean-Pierre Raffarin
Member of the French Senate for Vienne
Assumed office
18 September 2005
Prime Minister of France
In office
6 May 2002  31 May 2005
President Jacques Chirac
Preceded by Lionel Jospin
Succeeded by Dominique de Villepin
Minister of Commerce and Industry
In office
18 May 1995  4 June 1997
President Jacques Chirac
Prime Minister Alain Juppé
Preceded by Alain Madelin
Succeeded by Marylise Lebranchu
Personal details
Born (1948-08-03) 3 August 1948
Poitiers, France
Nationality French
Political party DL (before 2002)
The Republicans (since 2002)
Spouse(s) Anne-Marie Perrier (m. 1980)
Children 2
Alma mater Panthéon-Assas University
ESCP Europe
Religion Catholicism

Jean-Pierre Raffarin (French: [ʒɑ̃ pjɛʁ ʁa.fa.ʁɛ̃]; born 3 August 1948) is a French conservative politician and Senator for Vienne.

Jean-Pierre Raffarin served as the Prime Minister of France from 6 May 2002 to 31 May 2005, resigning after France's rejection of the referendum on the European Union draft constitution. However, after Raffarin resigned, he said that his decision was not based on the outcome of the vote. Opinion polls following his resignation suggested that Raffarin was one of France's least popular Prime Ministers since the Fifth Republic was established in 1958. However, according to the book France: 1815–2003, written by Martin Evans and Emmanuel Godwin, Raffarin was "a remarkably popular Prime Minister" despite his ability "to state the obvious and to make empty statements".

He was also Vice President of the Senate from 2011 to 2014.

Early life

Born 3 August 1948, Raffarin grew up in Poitiers as the son of a prominent national figure: his father Jean Raffarin was a vice-minister of Agriculture in the government of Pierre Mendes-France (1954–1955).[1] He studied law at Panthéon-Assas University[2] and later graduated from ESCP Europe business school. He started his professional career in marketing.

In the 1970s, his first political commitment was in the association of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's young supporters. Defining himself as a "giscardien", he joined the staff of Lionel Stoléru, Secretary of state for Manual Workers and Immigration, and the Republican Party, the liberal-conservative component of the centre-right confederation the Union for French Democracy (UDF).

Political career

In the 1980s, he started a career in local politics in Poitou-Charentes region. With the support of René Monory, the local political leader, he took the chair of the regional council in 1988. Seven years later, he was elected senator of Vienne département.

Governmental functions

Electoral mandates

European Parliament

Senate of France

Regional Council

Municipal Council

Political functions

In Government

During the 1995 presidential campaign, while most UDF politicians supported Édouard Balladur, he chose the winning candidacy of Jacques Chirac. In return, he was nominated Minister of Small and Medium-sized Companies, Commerce and Craft Industry in Alain Juppé's cabinet (1995–1997).

At the same time, the pro-Chirac UDF members founded the Popular Party for French Democracy. Then, he returned in the Republican Party, became Liberal Democracy (DL) in 1997. He was vice-president of DL until 2002.

Prime Minister

During the 2002 presidential campaign, he advocated the union of the right behind the incumbent President Chirac. After his re-election, Chirac wished to give a sign of political renewal. Furthermore, elected in a special second round by a majority of left-wing voters, he searched for a moderate to lead the cabinet and the June 2002 legislative campaign. Raffarin participated in the formation of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

His political policies combined authority and moderate economical liberalism – that is, the support of laissez-faire economic policies. In 2003 he launched reforms of the public retirement scheme and of decentralisation, which led to many strikes. During the summer of 2003 the country experienced an unusual heat wave which caused the death of nearly 15,000 people. The perceived late reaction of the government was blamed on his administration. In 2004 he began a reform of the French state-run health-care system.

Raffarin's governments were known for their internal quarrels with various ministers taking opposite positions in public. The alleged lack of authority of the Prime Minister was mocked by the media.

On 28 March 2004 the ruling UMP party suffered an important defeat during the regional elections, with all but one région out of 22 of mainland France going to the opposition (PS, PCF, Les Verts). This was generally interpreted, including by Raffarin himself in his post-election speech, as "a sign of distrust against the government from the electorate". On 30 March 2004 Jean-Pierre Raffarin tendered the resignation of his government to president Jacques Chirac, who immediately re-appointed him prime minister, with the delegation to form a new government. This major cabinet reshuffle removed some of its most controversial ministers like Luc Ferry (education) or Jean-François Mattei (health).


Raffarin's resignation was accepted by President Chirac on 30 May 2005, after the "no" victory at the European Constitution referendum, and he was replaced as Prime Minister by Dominique de Villepin.[3]

On 18 September 2005, he was elected Senator in the Vienne département. Speculation were that he could eventually try to become President of the Senate or President of the Union for a Popular Movement if Nicolas Sarkozy won the 2007 presidential election. He became one of the Vice presidents of the UMP in 2007. In September 2008, he sought the Senate UMP fraction's investiture to become President of the Senate, but was defeated by Gérard Larcher.

Raffarin is Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur (Legion of Honour) and Grand-Croix de l'ordre national du Mérite (National Order of Merit).

International policies

During a state visit to China on 21 April 2005 he avoided opposing the new "anti-secession" law on Taiwan, stating that "The anti-secession law is completely compatible with the position of France" and "The position of France has always been to 'one China' and we will remain attached to this position". On the embargo on weapons, he stated that "France continues to ask for a lifting of the embargo, and does not see what could lead the European Council to change position on that question". By convention, foreign affairs are one of the President's—and not the Prime Minister's—sole responsibilities.


First ministry (May – June 2002)

Second ministry (2002–2004)

Third ministry (2004–2005)

Minor changes

29 November 2004 – following a Nicolas Sarkozy's resignation to become president of the UMP scandal forcing Hervé Gaymard resignation.

25 February 2005 – following a scandal forcing Gaymard's resignation


Jean-Pierre Raffarin was often teased for his optimistic aphorisms, known colloquially and ironically as raffarinades, the best known being La route est droite, mais la pente est forte ("The road is straight, but the slope is steep"). Some consider that the word raffarinade was created in reference to the other French word mazarinade. However, mazarinade refers to the songs that the frondeurs (French revolutionaries during the Régence of Queen Anne – Archduchess of Austria – and chief minister Cardinal de Mazarin, before king Louis XIV's personal reign) sang to mock the unpopular chief minister.

Raffarin also tried his English prior to the referendum on the European draft Constitution but this turned out to be an ill-advised idea, as shown in this famous excerpt[4] from his speech: "Oui (the yes) needs the no to win against the no." The referendum itself was eventually nicknamed le Raffarindum by its opponents while Journée de solidarité envers les personnes âgées (Day of solidarity with the elderly) is sometimes referred to as la Saint-Raffarin by discontented workers (following a decision by Raffarin, French workers are supposed to work on Whit Monday for free, but public transportation still uses its "Sundays and holidays" timetable).


See also


  1. Tagliabue, John (7 May 2002). "Man in the News; A Leader to Lean On; Jean-Pierre Raffarin". New York Times. Retrieved 8 November 2010.
  2. Ripaux, Alain (2004). Images et souvenirs du Poitou-Charentes (in French). Visualia.
  3. "De Villepin appointed French PM". BBC News. 31 May 2005. Retrieved 8 November 2010.
Political offices
Preceded by
Alain Madelin
Minister of Small and Medium-sized Companies,
Commerce and Craft Industry

Succeeded by
Marylise Lebranchu
Preceded by
Lionel Jospin
Prime Minister of France
Succeeded by
Dominique de Villepin
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