(b. Izmir, Turkey, 2 May 1929)
French; Prime Minister 1993–5 Balladur came from a family of French businessmen who had been settled for generations in Turkey. He took the classic civil service route to a career in government and was a protégé of Pompidou, whose private office he ran. He retreated into well-paid obscurity after Pompidou's death in 1974 and built up close links with a number of industrial magnates, most notably Ambroise Roux. While serving in Pompidou's office he had come into contact with Jacques Chirac and it was Chirac who brought him into politics as one of his policy advisers. During the 1980s, their relationship prospered, though it never became the close friendship which they pretended—Balladur was a colder, more buttoned-up and snobbish character than the impulsive and warm Chirac. Balladur was convinced that Chirac's presidential ambitions needed to be buttressed by a record of solid governmental competence that would overcome the negative image of erratic and ruthless activism. Thus he conceived the system of cohabitation whereby Chirac would govern France in co-operation with President Mitterrand. When the 1986 parliamentary elections provided a right-wing Chamber, Chirac became Prime Minister and gave Balladur the key role of Finance Minister with effective control over all aspects of domestic policy. He introduced a wide-ranging privatization programme and introduced a limited amount of deregulation to respect the criteria of the Single European Act.
Although Balladur was widely regarded as Deputy Prime Minister, he remained at this time a loyal Chirac supporter. His haughty manner, and fondness for the company of duchesses, led to his being portrayed as an ancien régime aristocrat carried around in a sedan chair. Thus there was little evidence to suggest that he might emerge as a contender for the presidential crown himself. But after Chirac's heavy defeat in the 1988 presidential election, he began to polish up his own credentials. He wrote a number of books and was photographed everywhere looking statesmanlike. The collapse of the authority of the Socialist governments of the early 1990s made it certain that a second cohabitation would take place—and this time Chirac refused point blank to expose himself again to the dangers of governing with Mitterrand. Thus Balladur was appointed Prime Minister in May 1993. His popularity immediately soared. Sober-suited, elaborately courteous, and above all respectable, he reassured an electorate grown weary of political scandal and party games. As Prime Minister, he managed to push through the GATT reforms and to maintain the strong franc policy which was an integral part of France's European strategy. Borne aloft by opinion polls, it was by now clear that he harboured presidential ambitions of his own, and was no longer prepared to act as a deputy to a Chirac who looked like a has-been. A number of erstwhile Chirac supporters, including the populist Interior Minister Pasqua, backed him for the 1995 presidential elections and for a while he looked unassailable. Once the campaign began, however, things went wrong. A poor public speaker, he lacked the resources of a party machine, and was compelled by his prime ministerial office to moderate the sort of campaign promises which his rival Chirac scattered like confetti. On the first round, he came third, behind the Socialist Jospin and Chirac and stood down, with morose loyalty, in favour of the latter. He resigned as Prime Minister and was re-elected to the National Assembly. In 2002 he failed to win the election as President of the National Assembly but he remained a Deputy until 2007. Later that year he published For a Western Union between Europe and the USA, a theme picked up by his protégé and former Finance Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy.