Chirac, who was president between 1995 and 2007, was convicted for his role in a scheme
that involved inventing fake jobs for members of his party while he was mayor of Paris in the 1990s.
The 79-year-old is the first former president to face charges in court and the verdict was a surprise - even the prosecution had called for him to be cleared.
In 1945, Philippe Pétain, whose Vichy government collaborated with the German
occupation, was tried as a former head of state – but not president - and condemned to death for treason.
Despite a long history of trials of politicians, leading French personalities have generally escaped punishment, leading to accusations of complicity between the justice system and ruling circles.
Chirac’s adoptive daughter, Anh Dao Traxel, judged the sentence “too, too harsh”.
Opinions of the judgement were mixed on the streets of Paris Thursday:
"It’s good that former presidents can be charged with things they’ve done ... that he can be prosecuted for that and that in the end there’s a charge against him,," said 28-year-old teacher, Céline. "People who are in charge of whatever - mayors and such - it’s good that they can be brought to justice."
"I think it’s a very good thing that they finally decided to do something about it," said another teacher, Corrine. "Nobody is above the law, we always have problems with politicians, they shouldn’t be above the law. They shouldn’t think they can do whatever they want, it should be transparent."
"I think it’s too late, he’s old, he’s sick, he’s maybe only a few years to live," was the opinion of Philippe, who is in his 20s. "For me, I’m a bit disappointed, I’m not really a fan of Jacques Chirac but not really good to condemn a man who is really old and did a lot for France."