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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Presidential Bid in 1995 For France's Jacques Delors

PARIS -- Despite polls showing him the clear favorite for the French presidency, Jacques Delors has stunned the nation by announcing that he will not run to succeed retiring President Francois Mitterrand in elections next year.

The decision by Delors -- the 69-year-old president of the European Union Executive Commission and, like Mitterrand, a Socialist -- took the most popular candidate on the left out of the running.

It also set the stage for a nasty fight between two conservative contenders, Prime Minister Edouard Balladur and Paris Mayor Jacques Chirac, both members of the Rally for the Republic party. The two longtime friends are no longer on speaking terms.

Delors' announcement, made during a live interview on France's most popular current affairs program, ended months of effort on the part of the Socialist Party to draft him for the April elections.

"It wasn't an easy decision to take," Delors said, and he cited "lots of personal reasons."

"I've worked for 50 years, and in these conditions it's more reasonable to envisage a lifestyle more balanced between reflection and action," he said.

Delors, often called "Mr. Europe," is widely respected on the Continent. During his 10 years as head of the EU's Executive Commission, internal trade barriers in Western Europe have been significantly lowered and the region has made important strides toward political and economic unity.

Other, more practical political considerations played a role in his decision. As a Socialist president with a rightist National Assembly, his ability to lead the country would have been severely restricted. And he acknowledged Sunday that even if he dissolved the Assembly, new elections probably would result in another strong rightist majority.

Chirac already has announced his intention to run. Although Balladur has not declared himself a candidate, he leads Chirac in the polls and is expected to announce soon. Other rightist candidates might also be drawn into the race.