Obituary: Jean Lecanuet

Jean Adrien Francois Lecanuet, politician, born Rouen 4 March 1920, Member National Assembly 1951-55, Mayor of Rouen 1968, 1971, 1977, 1983, Senator 1959-73, 1977-93, Minister of Justice 1974-76, Minister of State 1974-77, Minister of Planning and Development 1976-77, Member European Parliament 1979-88, died Neuilly 22 February 1993.

JEAN LECANUET became a national figure in France when he was a candidate in the Presidential elections of 1965. General de Gaulle had deliberately created uncertainty as to whether he would seek another mandate; the opposition tried in vain to find a non-Communist around whom they could unite. For the first time the President was to be elected by universal suffrage. For the first time, too, television and opinion polls were to be important elements in the contest. Nevertheless de Gaulle was confident of winning, and thought that he might well gain 70 per cent of the votes cast, against his one serious rival, Francois Mitterrand. In the first opinion polls Lecanuet was given only 2 per cent.

But the Lecanuet campaign was sensational. He was hailed as the French Kennedy, he was a success on television. He also succeeded in traditional meetings and shortly before the first ballot he addressed an enthusiastic audience of some 10,000 in Paris. He spoke as if he were certain to be elected.

His campaign denounced de Gaulle because he was not in favour of Europe, and because he was not active enough in promoting progress. Lecanuet gained some 16 per cent of the vote, most of which was taken from traditional supporters of de Gaulle. As a consequence de Gaulle had the humiliation of having to stand in a second ballot, and for a moment it seemed likely that a disgusted de Gaulle would turn his back on France and withdraw. That he did not do so and that he was re- elected hardly diminished Lecanuet's triumph. France, he believed, wanted to avoid the right and the left in politics, and saw that its future lay in a European Community.

These were Lecanuet's political beliefs throughout his career. A highly qualified academic philosopher, who had fought in the Resistance (he was arrested by the Germans in 1944), he saw himself in the tradition of Social Catholicism and he became a member of the Popular Republican Party when it was formed after the Liberation. He served as an official in different ministries before becoming a deputy and later a senator. He opposed the Communists and the Gaullists because in his view they were neither sufficiently democratic nor sufficiently European. As ideologies crumbled, he believed that the future lay with men of goodwill who would co-operate in France and in Europe.

Considering that the election of Giscard d'Estaing in 1974 marked the end of Gaullism, Lecanuet became a minister and held several key posts. He was spoken of as a possible President of the Republic. But the centre never held and seldom prospered. The victory of the Socialists in 1981 put paid to his hopes. With the appointment of Chirac as Prime Minister in 1986, he had expectations of becoming Minister for External Affairs, but he was disappointed.

Lecanuet's great consolation was the town of Rouen. He was Mayor from 1968 onwards, and when last December illness prevented him from attending a meeting of the municipal council, this was the first that he had missed for a quarter of a century. Last September he campaigned in favour of the Maastricht Treaty. As an opponent of Mitterrand he said that people should think 'no' but should vote 'yes'. Such ambivalence is said to be typically Norman.

(Photograph omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform