Who is Who: Francois Mitterrand

People | January 19, 2009, Monday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0
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Who is Who: Francois Mitterrand: Who is Who: Francois Mitterrand Francois Mitterrand in 1984. Photo by Wikipedia

Francois Mitterrand was born in Jarnac, France, on 26th October, 1916. A bright and excelling student, Mitterrand studied law and political science at the University of Paris.

In the outbreak of the Second World War, Mitterrand joined the French Army. He was wounded in 1940, during Germany's Western Offensive and became a German POW. He managed to escape in December 1941.

Mitterrand arrived in Vichy in January 1942 and as a strong supporter of Henri-Philippe Petain was given a post in the documentation service of the Legion Francaise des Combattants. However, he left the government in 1943 because he disagreed with Pierre Laval's decision to introduce a policy of sending French workers to Germany.

Mitterrand joined the French Resistance and began working with the Organization of Armed Resistance (ORA). In November, 1943, he travelled to London where he met General Charles De Gaulle, who assigned him with the task to unify the different groups representing former soldiers.

Upon his return to France in February 1944, Mitterrand became head of Mouvement National Des Prisonniers de Guerre. (The National Movement of French POWs) At the end of the war, Mitterrand was appointed as the person in charge of arranging the return of the thousands of French prisoners and deportees from Germany.

In 1946 Francois Mitterrand was elected a Member of the French National Assembly (Parliament). Between 1947 and 1958 he held several Minister's posts in 11 short-lived centralists governments.

Mitterrand was opposed to Charles De Gaulle's idea to create a Fifth Republic, something that lead him to losing his seat in the 1958 elections. As his political views grew more radical, in the 1960s Mitterrand began creating a new left of center, anti-Gaullist alliance, the Federation of the Left.

Mitterrand returned to the French National Assembly in 1962 and three years later became the Federation's presidential candidate. He received 32% of the vote, but was still defeated by Charles De Gaulle.

In 1971 Mitterrand became the leader of the French Socialist Party. Over the next few years he embarked on the highly successful strategy of electoral coalition with the Communist Party. By 1978, the French Socialist Party became the single most popular party in France. In 1981 Mitterrand was elected President.

As President, Mitterrand introduced a series of radical economic and political reforms such as nationalizing financial institutions and several large corporations, raising the minimum wage, improving welfare benefits and abolishing the death penalty.

During the 1986 elections the Socialist Party lost its National Assembly majority and Mitterrand was forced to work with a right-wing coalition government.

Mitterrand was re-elected President in 1988 for another seven-year term. As the conservative parties lost their majority, a new leftist administration was established. Worried by the economic growth of Germany, Mitterrand supported the Treaty of European Union (1991) which aimed at providing a centralized European banking system and a common currency.

In 1992 the Socialist Party suffered a crushing electoral defeat. Three years later Mitterrand lost the presidential election.

Francois Mitterrand died in Paris on 8th January, 1996.
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