Until this month, the answer seemed obvious. [Jacques Chirac] was riding high. It had become more and more evident that, under the strange double executive system of France, that he, not President Francois Mitterrand, was running the country. Chirac projected a dynamic image, a leader who, whether you agreed with him or not, got things done. The polls showed that he had a reasonable chance of winning the presidency in 1988, a position that would assume its old omnipotence if his conservative coalition controlled both the Parliament and the presidency.
Smarting under such criticism, Chirac, in the closing days of the year, has tried to stem the sudden tide against him and regain momentum. His refusal to give in to the railroad workers who crippled train travel throughout France during the Christmas holidays was part of the new Chirac strategy. This Chirac campaign is sure to intensify in the new year.
There are many candidates, but two pose the most danger for Chirac. All polls show that Mitterrand, if he chose to run again, would probably defeat Chirac handily. Chirac passed the word to associates recently that, from now on, his government will start attacking Mitterrand whenever it feels the president is championing leftist causes rather that acting as an arbiter above politics.