In some ways, Chirac, 68, is the embodiment of French politics. In other ways, he seems a man caught in a gradual cultural change about ethics. A graduate of the country's elite Ecole Nationale d'Administration - the National School of Administration - he is the inheritor of the Gaullist movement and a creature of a political system in which political parties can serve as personal empires.
Land deal assailed
Chirac could still be vulnerable to a swing in the public's mood, especially if it could be shown that he benefited personally from any of the alleged scandals. In the latest twist, the French weekly Le Canard Enchaine reported that in 1978, Chirac allegedly worked to double a public subsidy from Paris' City Hall to a charity that purchased 12 acres near his 16th-century chateau in southwestern France.
The 12 acres had been slated for development but were purchased by a charity founded by the widow of Pompidou. Chirac was the charity's treasurer. The land was never developed, and the area around Chirac's home remained tranquil.
There are many analysts here who say that time, history and circumstances are on Chirac's side, and that he will survive the scandals.
Yves Meny, a political scientist and author of The Corruption of the Republic, says the public has grown bored with the scandals and remains cynical of politics and politicians.
People `same as Chirac'
"The thinking is [that] Chirac has committed some illegal practices, but everyone has done the same - all politicians are essentially corrupted," he says, explaining the public's indifference.
Meny says Chirac has adroitly fended off critics by "presenting himself as a victim."
Montebourg, the man who wants to impeach Chirac, remains convinced that one way or another, the president is going down. To believe otherwise, he says, would be unthinkable.
"Chirac win?" he says of the coming elections. "Impossible, except if French people have been changed so deeply that they are the same as Chirac."