Édouard Balladur (born 2 May 1929) is a French right-wing politician. He served as Prime Minister during the second "cohabitation", under François Mitterrand, from 29 March 1993 to 10 May 1995. Candidate for presidency in 1995, he came in third and was defeated in the first round.
He started his career in 1964 as advisor of Prime Minister Georges Pompidou. After Pompidou's election as President of France in 1969, Balladur was appointed under-secretary general of the presidency then secretary general from 1973 to Georges Pompidou's death in 1974.
He returned to politics in the 1980s with Jacques Chirac. A member of the Neo-Gaullist party Rally for the Republic (RPR), he was the theoretician of the "cohabitation". Indeed, he explained that if the right won the legislative election, it could govern without Socialist President François Mitterrand's resignation. This situation took place from 1986 to 1988. As Minister of Economy and Finance, he sold off a large number of public companies and abolished the wealth tax. He appeared as an unofficial deputy Prime Minister in the cabinet led by Jacques Chirac. He took a major part in the adoption of liberal and pro-European policies by Chirac and the RPR. After Chirac's defeat at the 1988 presidential election, a part of the RPR reproached him to be responsible of the abandonment of the Gaullist doctrine but he kept the confidence of Chirac.
Since Jacques Chirac refused to renew "cohabitation" with President Mitterrand, Édouard Balladur served as Prime Minister after the 1993 legislative election. He was faced with a difficult economic situation but he did not want to make the political errors of the previous "cohabitation". If he failed to impose his project of minimum income for youth, he led a moderate liberal policy in economy. Conveying the image of a quiet conservative, he did not question the wealth tax (reestablished by the Socialists in 1988). Despite corruption affairs affecting some of his ministers, who he forced to resign (thus lending his name to the so-called "Balladur jurisprudence"), he became very popular and had the support of influential media. A majority of right-wing politicians advised him to run for the 1995 presidency, despite his promise not to campaign against Jacques Chirac.
When he announced his candidacy, 4 months before the election, he was considered the favourite. In the polls, he led Chirac by almost 20 points. From the position of an outsider, Chirac criticized Balladur as representing "dominant ideas" and the difference between the two decreased quickly. Left behind by the Socialist Lionel Jospin and Jacques Chirac, Balladur obtained 18.5% and was eliminated in the first round. Despite Chirac declaring that they had been "friends for 30 years", the episode greatly strained their relationship. The Balladuriens, i.e. Balladur's followers, such as Nicolas Sarkozy, were ostracized from the new Chirac administration.
Then he failed in turn to win the elections for the presidency of the Ile de France region in 1998, the RPR nomination for the mayoralty of Paris in 2001, and the Chair of the National Assembly in 2002. He presided over the National Assembly's foreign affairs committee during his last parliamentary term (2002-2007). Since the 1980s, he advocated the unification of the right-wing groupings in a great party. Chirac realized this with the creation of the Union for a Popular Movement in 2002.
In 2007, when Nicolas Sarkozy was elected President of France, he nominated him to the head of a committee for institutional reforms. The constitutional revision was approved by the Parliament in July 2008.
From 1968 to 1980, he was president of the French company of the Mont Blanc Tunnel, while occupying various other positions in ministerial staff. Following the 1999 deadly accident in the tunnel, he gave evidence to the court judging the case in 2005, about the security measures he had or had not taken. Balladur claimed that he always took security seriously, but that it was difficult to agree on anything with the Italian company operating the Italian part of the tunnel. From 1977 to 1986, he was president of Générale de Service Informatique (later merged into IBM Global Services), making him one of the few French politicians with business experience.
In 2008, Balladur visited the United States to speak at an event organized by the Streit Council for a Union of Democracies, Washington-based think-tank. Balladur presented his latest book, in which he outlined a concept for a "Union of the West.
On 5 August 2008, the government of Rwanda issued a report accusing Édouard Balladur of involvement in the 1994 Rwanda genocide that killed 800,000 people. He and other French officials were accused in the report of giving political, military, diplomatic and logistical support during the genocide to Rwanda’s extremist government and the Hutu forces that slaughtered minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus.