François Mitterrand

From New World Encyclopedia

François Mitterrand

François Maurice Adrien Marie Mitterrand (October 26, 1916 – January 8, 1996) was President of France from 1981 to 1995, and was best known for leading France toward economic and political integration with western Europe. He was elected as representative of the Socialist Party (PS). First elected during the May 1981 presidential election, he became the first socialist president of the Fifth Republic and the first left-wing head of government since 1957. He was reelected in 1988 and held office until 1995, before dying of prostate cancer the following year. During each of his two terms, he dissolved the Parliament after his election to have a majority during the first five years of his term, and then each time his party lost the next legislative elections. He was consequently forced to "cohabit" during the two last years of each of his terms with conservative cabinets. They were led by Jacques Chirac from 1986 until 1988, and Édouard Balladur from 1993 to 1995.

As President, Mitterand moved away from socialist policies, towards a more centrist position. He was a strong supporter of European integration and did not want Germany to dominate Europe's future, and thought the best strategy to avoid this was for France and Germany to devolve functions to European institutions, such as having a common currency and foreign policy for the European Union. On the latter, he departed more radically from the Gaullist position of an independent French policy, and did not share their ambivalence towards Europe. Some suggest Mitterrand never succeeded in being the great shaper of events he hoped to be but that he did contribute significantly to the political culture in France by demonstrating that the Left gaining power would not lead to something sinister following the change of government.[1]Perhaps his strongest legacy was his support of a strengthened European Union centered on improved French-German relations, committing the two historical enemies to greater cooperation rather than competition.

Early career

François Mitterrand was born in Jarnac, Charente, in a Catholic and conservative family. His father, Gilbert Félix Joseph, was agent of a railroad company, then vinegar maker, and later President of the federation of vinegar maker trade-unions, whose maternal grandmother was a noblewoman, descendant of Kings Fernando III of Castile and Jean de Brienne of Jerusalem. His mother was Marie Gabrielle Yvonne Lorrain. He had three brothers (Robert, Jacques, and Philippe) and four sisters. His wife, Danielle Mitterrand, has engaged herself in various left-wing causes. The Mitterrands, married in 1944 and had three sons: Pascal (June 10, 1945-September 17, 1945), Jean-Christophe, born in 1946, and Gilbert Mitterrand, born on February 4, 1949. He also had a daughter, Mazarine Pingeot. His nephew, Frédéric Mitterrand, is a journalist (and supporter of right-wing Jacques Chirac, former president of France), and his brother-in-law Roger Hanin is a well-known actor.

Mitterrand studied from 1925 to 1934, in Angoulême, where he became member of the JEC, the student organization of Action catholique. Arriving in Paris in autumn 1934, he then went to the Ecole libre des sciences politiques until 1937. Mitterrand took membership for about a year in the Volontaires nationaux (National Volunteers), an organization related to François de la Rocque's far right league, the Croix de Feu—the league had just participated in the February 6, 1934 riots which led to the fall of the second Cartel des Gauches (Left-Wing Coalition).[2] Contrary to what has been said, he never took his card at the Parti Social Français (PSF) which succeeded to the Croix de Feu and may be considered as the first French right-wing mass party. However, he did write news articles in Henri de Kerillis' L'Echo de Paris newspaper, close to the PSF. He participated in the xenophobic demonstrations against the "métèque invasion" in February 1935, and then in those against law teacher Gaston Jèze, who had been nominated as juridical counselor of Ethopia's Negus, in January 1936. When this involvement in nationalist movements came to be known in the 1990s, he attributed these political acts to the milieu of his youth. Mitterrand furthermore had some personal relations with members of the Cagoule, a far right terrorist group in the 1930s.[3] In a logical way for his then-nationalist ideas, he was disturbed by Nazi expansionism during the Anschluss.

Mitterrand then served his conscription term in the colonial troops, from 1937 to 1939. In 1938, he became the best friend of Georges Dayan, a Jewish socialist, after having saved him from anti-semitic aggressions of the national-royalist movement Action française. Finishing his law studies, he was sent to the Maginot line in September 1939, with the rank of Sergeant-chief (infantry sergeant), near Montmédy. He became engaged to Marie-Louise Terrasse (future Catherine Langeais) in May 1940 (but she broke it off in January 1942).

Second World War

Mitterrand enlisted in the French army during World War II. He fought as an infantry sergeant, was wounded and taken as a prisoner of war (POW) in 1940. His political views evolved as he met POWs from all kinds of social backgrounds. He escaped from German captivity six times within 18 months, arriving home (which was in the zone not occupied by the German forces, but rather in the zone of the fascist French collaborationist Vichy government) in December 1941. He then became a mid-level functionary of the Vichy government, in the POW welcome service, but served as a spy for the Free French Forces.

In 1943, he received the Francisque, the honorific distinction of the Vichy regime. When Mitterrand's Vichy past was exposed in the 1950s, he initially denied having received the Francisque.

In autumn 1942, the non-occupied zone was invaded by Germans. Then, in January 1943, Mitterrand left Vichy after the dismissal of Maurice Pinot, the leader of its service. When Germany began losing the war, Mitterrand set about building up a resistance network, composed mainly of former POWs like himself. The POWs National Rally (Rassemblement national des prisonniers de guerre or RNPG) was affiliated with General Henri Giraud, a former POW who had escaped from a German prison and made his way across Germany back to the Allied forces.

Giraud was then contesting the leadership of the French Resistance with General de Gaulle. Mitterrand himself clashed with Michel Cailliau (also called "Charette"), de Gaulle's nephew, who led another former POWs network.

In November 1943, the Gestapo raided a flat in Vichy, where they hoped to arrest a resister called François Morland. "Morland" was Mitterrand's cover name. The man they arrested was Pol Pilven, a resister who was to survive the war in a concentration camp. Mitterrand was in Paris at the time. Warned by his friends, he escaped to London aboard a Lysander plane.

From there, he went to Algiers, where he met Charles de Gaulle, who was now the uncontested leader of the Free French. The two men did not get along; Mitterrand refused to merge his group with other POW movements if Cailliau was to be the leader.

He later returned to France via England by boat. In Paris, the three Resistance groups made up of POWs (communists, gaullists, RNPG) finally merged as the POWs and Deportees National Movement (Mouvement national des prisonniers de guerre et déportés or MNPGD). Mitterrand took the lead.

When de Gaulle entered Paris following the Liberation, he was introduced to various men who were to be part of the provisional government. Among them was Mitterrand, as secretary general of POWs. When they came face-to-face, de Gaulle is said to have muttered: "You again!" Mitterrand was dismissed 15 days later.

Fourth Republic

After the war, Mitterrand quickly moved back into politics. In 1946, he was elected as a Deputy for the Nièvre département and in 1947, joined a centerist grouping, the Democratic and Socialist Union of the Resistance (Union démocratique et socialiste de la Résistance, or UDSR). He held various offices in the Fourth Republic as a Deputy and as a Minister (holding eleven different portfolios in total).

In May 1948, Mitterrand participated together with Konrad Adenauer, Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan, Paul-Henri Spaak, Albert Coppé, and Altiero Spinelli, in the Congress of The Hague, which originated the European Movement.

As Overseas Minister (1950-1951), he opposed the colonial lobby to propose reforms programs. He connected with the left when he resigned from the cabinet after the arrest of Marocco's sultan (1953). Leader of the progressive wing of the UDSR, he took the head of the party in 1953, replacing the conservative René Pleven.

As Interior Minister in Pierre Mendès-France's cabinet (1954-1955), he was faced with the launching of the Algerian War of Independence. He claimed: "Algeria is France." He was also suspected to be an informer of the Communist Party in the cabinet. This rumor was spread by the former Paris police prefect, who had been dismissed by him. The suspicions were dismissed by the investigations.

The UDSR integrated the Republican Front, a center-left coalition which won the 1956 legislative election. As Justice Minister (1956-1957), he allowed the expansion of martial law in the Algerian conflict. Unlike other ministers (including Mendès-France), who criticized the repressive policy in Algeria, he remained in Guy Mollet's cabinet until its end.

As Minister of Justice he was an official representative of France during the wedding of Prince of Monaco Rainier III and American actress Grace Kelly.

Under the Fourth Republic, he was representative of a generation of young ambitious politicians. He appeared like a possible future Prime Minister.

Fifth Republic and opposition to de Gaulle

In 1958, he was one of the few to object to the nomination of Charles de Gaulle as head of government, and de Gaulle's plan for a French Fifth Republic. He justified his opposition by the circumstances of de Gaulle's comeback: The May 13, 1958, riot and the military pressure. In September 1958, determinedly opposed to de Gaulle, Mitterrand made an appeal to vote "no" in the referendum over the Constitution, which was nevertheless adopted on October 4, 1958.

This attitude may have been a factor in Mitterrand's losing his seat in the 1958 elections, beginning a long "crossing of the desert" (this term is usually applied to de Gaulle's decline in influence for a similar period). Mitterrand was elected to represent Nièvre in the Senate in 1959, where he was part of the Group of the Democratic Left. He re-gained his deputy seat in 1962.

Also in that same year, on the Avenue de l'Observatoire in Paris, Mitterrand escaped an assassin's bullet by diving behind a hedge. The incident brought him a great deal of publicity, boosting his political ambitions. Some of his critics claim that he had staged the incident himself. He said he was victim of a plot and accused Prime Minister Michel Debré of being its instigator. Prosecution was initiated against Mitterrand but was later dropped.

In 1964, he became President (chairman) of the General Council of Nièvre. While the opposition to De Gaulle organized in clubs, he founded his own group, the Convention of the Republican Institutions (Convention des institutions républicaines or CIR). He reinforced his position as a left-wing opponent to Charles de Gaulle in publishing Le Coup d'Etat permanent (The permanent coup).

1965 presidential election and aftermath

In 1965, he was the first left-wing politician who saw a presidential election by universal suffrage as a way to defeat the opposition leadership. Not a member of any specific political party, his candidacy for presidency was accepted by all left-wing parties (SFIO, PCF, PR, PSU). De Gaulle was expected to win in the first round, but Mitterrand got 31.72 percent of the vote, denying De Gaulle a first round victory. Mitterand was supported by the left and other anti-Gaullists: Centrist Jean Monnet, moderate conservative Paul Reynaud, and Jean-Louis Tixier-Vignancour, an extreme right-winger, who defended Raoul Salan, one of the four generals who had organized the 1961 Algiers putsch during the Algerian War.

Mitterrand gained 44.8 percent of votes in the second round and De Gaulle was thus elected for another term, but this defeat was regarded as honorable, for no one was expected to beat De Gaulle. He took the lead of a center-left alliance: The Federation of the Democratic and Socialist Left (Fédération de la gauche démocrate et socialiste or FGDS).

In the legislative election of March 1967, the system where all candidates who failed to pass a 10 percent threshold in the first round were eliminated from the second round favored the pro-Gaullist majority, which faced a split opposition (PC, PS, and centrists of Jacques Duhamel). Nevertheless, the parties of the left managed to gain 63 seats more than before for a total of 194. The Communists remained the largest left-wing group with 22.5 percent of votes. The governing coalition won with its majority reduced by only one seat (247 seats out of 487).

In Paris, the Left (FGDS, PSU, PC) managed to win more votes in the first round than the two governing parties (46 percent against 42.6) while the Democratic Center of Duhamel got 7 percent of votes. But with 38 percent of votes, De Gaulle's Union for the Fifth Republic remained the leading French party (René Rémond, Notre siècle, 1988, Fayard, p. 664 ff.).

During the May 1968 crisis, Mitterand held a press conference to announce his candidacy if a new presidential election was held. But de Gaulle called for a legislative election instead. As a result of this election, the Right won the biggest majority since Bloc National in 1919.

Mitterrand was accused of being responsible for this defeat and the FGDS split. In 1969, he could not run for the presidency: Guy Mollet refused to give him the support of the SFIO. The Left was eliminated in the first round, and Georges Pompidou faced centrist Alain Poher in the second round.

Socialist Party leader

After the FGDS implosion, he turned to the Socialist Party (Parti socialiste or PS). Indeed, in June 1971, at the time of the Epinay Congress, CIR joined the PS (as SFIO was called beginning with 1969). The executive of the PS was always dominated by Guy Mollet's friends. They proposed an "ideological dialogue" with the Communists. For François Mitterrand, an electoral alliance was necessary to rise to power. With this project, he was elected first secretary of the PS.

In June 1972, he signed the Common Programme of Government with the Communist Georges Marchais and the Left Radical Robert Fabre.

On May 19, 1974, as common candidate of the Left, François Mitterrand obtained 43.20 percent, then faced Valéry Giscard d'Estaing in the second round of presidential election. During the TV debate, Giscard d'Estaing criticized him as being "a man of the past," due to his long political career. Mitterrand was defeated in a near tie by Giscard d'Estaing, Mitterrand scoring 49.19 percent and Giscard 50.81.

Interestingly, the Soviet ambassador to Paris and the director of L'Humanité did not hide their satisfaction with the defeat. According to Jean Lacouture, Raymond Aron, and François Mitterrand himself, the Soviet government and the French communist leaders had done everything to prevent Mitterrand from being elected: They regarded him as too anti-communist and too skillful in his strategy of rebalancing the Left at Communists' expense.

In 1977, the Communist and Socialist parties failed to update the Common Programme, then lost the 1978 legislative election. If the Socialists took the leading role in the left, in obtaining more votes than the Communists for the first time since 1936, the leadership of Mitterrand was challenged by an internal opposition led by Michel Rocard who criticized the programme of PS for being "archaic" and "unrealistic." The polls indicated Rocard was more popular than Mitterrand. Nevertheless, Mitterrand won the Metz Congress (1979) and Rocard renounced his candidacy for the 1981 presidential election.

For his third candidacy for presidency, Mitterrand proposed a reassuring image with the slogan, "the quiet force." He campaigned for "another policy" and denounced the results of the incumbent president. Furthermore, he benefited from the conflict in the right-wing majority. He obtained 25.85 percent of votes in the first round then defeated President Giscard d'Estaing in the second round, with 51.76 percent. He is the first left-wing politician elected President of France by the universal suffrage.


Home policy

First term

In the French Presidential Election of 1981, he became the first socialist President of the Fifth Republic, and his government the first left-wing government in 23 years. He named Pierre Mauroy as Prime Minister and organized a new legislative election. The Socialists obtained an absolute parliamentary majority. Four Communists joined the cabinet.

The beginning of his first term was marked by left-wing economic policy which included several nationalizations, a 10 percent increase of the minimum wages (SMIC), a 39 hours workweek, a 56 day week on holiday, the creation of the solidarity tax on wealth, an increase of social benefits, and the reform of the social dialogue (Auroux Act). The objective was to boost economic demand and thus economic activity (Keynesianism). But unemployment continued to grow and three devaluations of the Franc were decided upon. This policy more or less came to an end with the March 1983 liberal turn. Priority was given to the struggle against inflation in order to remain competitive in the European Monetary System.

With respect to social and cultural policies, he abolished the death penalty as soon as he took office (Badinter Act), as well as the "anti-casseurs Act" which instituted collective responsibility for acts of violence during demonstrations. He also dissolved the Cour de sûreté, a special high court, and enacted a massive regularization of illegal aliens. He passed the first decentralizations laws (Defferre Act) and liberalized the media, allowing private radios and the first private TV (Canal+), and giving rise to the private radios movement.

The Left lost the 1983 municipal elections and the 1984 European Parliament election. In the same time, the Savary Bill to limit the financing of private schools by local communities, caused a political crisis. It was abandoned and Mauroy resigned in July 1984. Laurent Fabius succeeded him. The Communists left the cabinet.

In Summer 1985, Defense Minister Charles Hernu was forced to resign after the discovery of the French implication in the attack against the Rainbow Warrior, a boat of Greenpeace association.

Before the 1986 legislative campaign, proportional representation was instituted. It could not prevent the victory of the RPR/UDF coalition. Mitterrand named the RPR leader Jacques Chirac as Prime Minister. This period of government, with a President and a Prime Minister who came from two opposite coalitions, was the first time that such a combination had occurred under the Fifth Republic, and came to be known as "Cohabitation."

Chirac handled mostly internal politics while Mitterrand concentrated on his "reserved domain:" Foreign affairs and defense. However, several conflicts opposed the two heads of the executive power. In this, Mitterrand refused to sign decrees of liberalization, obligating Chirac to pass by the parliamentary way. He supported covertly the social movements, notably the student revolt against the university reform (Devaquet Bill). Benefiting from the difficulties of Chirac's cabinet, his popularity increased.

The polls being positive for him, he announced his candidacy in the 1988 presidential election. He proposed a moderate program (neither nationalizations nor liberalization) and advocated the "united France." He obtained 34 percent of votes in the first round, then was opposed to Chirac in the second. He was reelected with 54 oercent of vote. He was the first President twice elected by the universal suffrage.

Second term

After his re-election, he named Michel Rocard as Prime Minister, despite their poor relations. Rocard led the moderate wing of the PS and he was the most popular of the Socialist politicians. Mitterrand decided to organize a new legislative election. The PS obtained a relative parliamentary majority. Four center-right politicians joined the cabinet.

The second term was marked by the Matignon accords concerning New Caledonia, the creation of the Insertion Minimum Revenue (RMI), which insures a minimum level of income to those deprived of any other form of income, the restoring of the solidarity tax on wealth, which had been abolished by Chirac's cabinet, the installation of the Generalized social tax, the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, the 1990 Gayssot Act on negationism, the Arpaillange Act on the financing of political parties, the reform of the penal code, the Evin Act on cigarette in public places. Besides, several large architectural works were engaged with the building of the Louvre Pyramid, the Channel Tunnel, the Grande Arche of the Defense, the Bastille Opera, the Finance Ministry in Bercy, and the National Library of France.

But the second term was also marked by rivalries in the PS and the split of the Mitterrandist group (Rennes Congress), the scandals about financing of the party, the contaminated blood scandal which implicated Laurent Fabius and former ministers Georgina Dufoix and Emond Hervé, and the Elysée wiretaps affairs.

Disappointed with Rocard's failure to enact the socialist's program, Mitterrand dismissed Rocard in 1991, and appointed Edith Cresson to replaced him. She was the first woman to become Prime Minister in France, but was forced to resign after the disaster of the 1992 regional elections. Her successor, Pierre Bérégovoy promised to fight unemployment and corruption but could not prevent the catastrophic defeat of the left in the 1993 legislative election. He committed suicide on May 1, 1993.

On February 16, 1993, president Mitterrand inaugurated in Fréjus a Memorial of Wars in Indochina.

Mitterrand named the former RPR Finance Minister Edouard Balladur as Prime Minister. The second "Cohabitation" was less conflictive than the first, because the two men knew they were not rivals for the next presidential election. Mitterrand was weakened by his cancer, the scandal about his past in Vichy, and the suicide of his friend, François de Grossouvre. His second and last term ended in May 1995, with the election of Jacques Chirac. He died a year later of prostate cancer, at the age of 79.

Foreign policy

East/West relations

Mitterrand's foreign policy could be regarded as more pro-Western than those of his predecessors. Mitterrand supported closer European collaboration; in no way did France approach the USSR; when Mitterrand made his visit to the USSR (in November 1988) the Soviet media bemoaned the loss of Soviet-French "special relations" of the Gaullist era.

Mitterrand was worried by the rapidity of the Soviet bloc's collapse. He made a controversial visit to East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He was opposed to the quick recognition of Croatia and Slovenia.

France participated to the Gulf War (1990-1991) with the U.S. and coalition military forces.

European policy

His major achievements came internationally, especially in the European Economic Community. He supported the enlargement of the EEC to include Spain and Portugal (who both joined in January 1986). In February 1986, he helped bring the Single European Act into effect. He worked well with West German chancellor Helmut Kohl and improved Franco-German relations measurably. He believed that the historic French-German rivalry was best avoided and that by vesting certain functions into European institutions, both nations could develop economically without confrontation. Together, they authored the Maastricht Treaty, which was signed on February 7, 1992. It was ratified by national referenda. Mitterrand was less anxious than his Gaullist predecessors to maintain the French tradition of independence in international affairs and would have liked to see the European Community move towards a common foreign policy, something that the United Kingdom found unthinkable. The opening up of the borders in Europe to passport-free travel would help people forge a sense of belonging to the whole of Europe, not just to a particular nation.

The 1990 discourse of La Baule

Responding to a democratic movement in Africa after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, he made his famous discourse of La Baule in June 1990 which conditioned official development assistance to democratization in former French colonies, and during which he opposed the devaluation of the Franc CFA. Seeing an "East wind" blowing in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, he stated that a "Southern wind" was also blowing in Africa, and that national leaders had to respond to the populations' wishes and aspirations by a "democratic opening," which included a representative system, free elections, multi-party system, freedom of the press, independence of the magistrature (itself ironically lacking in France), and prohibition of censorship. Recalling that France was the country making the most important effort concerning development aid, he announced that the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) would receive only donations (in order to stop the massive rise of Third World debt during the 1980s, and limited the interest rate to 5 percent for intermediate countries (that is, Côte d'Ivoire, Congo, Cameroun and Gabon). In a clear allusion to the Françafrique shady system, he also criticized interventionism in sovereign matters, which was according to him only another form of "colonialism." This, however, did not induce, lesser concern of Paris for its former colonies, Mitterrand hence continued with the African policy of de Gaulle inaugurated in 1960, which succeeded to the relative failure of the 1958 creation of the French Community. All in all, Mitterrand's discourse of La Baule, which marked a relative turning in France's policy concerning its former colonies, has been compared with the 1956 loi-cadre Defferre which was responding to anti-colonialist feelings.[4] However, African heads of state themselves reacted at most with indifference. Omar Bongo, president of Gabon, declared that he rather had "events counsel him;" Abdou Diouf, president of Senegal, said that according to him, the best solution was a "strong government" and a "good faith opposition;" president of Chad Hissène Habré (nicknamed the "African Pinochet") claimed that it was contradictory to demand that African states simultaneously carry out a "democratic policy" and "social and economic policies which limited their sovereignty," (in a clear allusion to the IMF and the World Bank's "structural adjustment programs." Hassan II, former king of Morocco, declared on his side that, "Africa was too open to the world to remain indifferent to what was happening around it," but that Occidental countries should "help young democracies open up, without putting a knife under their throats, without passing in a brutal manner to multipartism."[5] All in all, the discourse of La Baule has been said to be on one hand "one of the foundations of political renewal in French speaking Africa," and on the other hand "cooperation with France," this despite "incoherence and inconsistency, like any public policy."

Public Image

Because the Left had had a series of defeats in national elections since 1958, when Mitterrand was elected in 1981, he was largely regarded as the savior of the Left and for this reason was highly regarded by many Socialists (the so-called tontonmania, from tonton, or "uncle," Mitterrand's nickname). Critics contend that this led to complacency and tolerance for Mitterrand's shortcomings: A monarchic style of presidency reminiscent of that of Charles de Gaulle — ironic due to Mitterrand's 1965 criticisms of the institutions of the Fifth Republic, which he accused of being a "Permanent Coup d'Etat" (title of his book)—lack of transparency regarding his early career and his ties to Vichy, and other scandals.

List of prime ministers during Mitterrand's presidency

Prime minister from to Notes
Pierre Mauroy 1981 1984
Laurent Fabius 1984 1986 The youngest PM since Decazes (39 years old)
Jacques Chirac 1986 1988 First cohabitation of the Fifth Republic
Michel Rocard 1988 1991
Édith Cresson 1991 1992 First female prime minister
Pierre Bérégovoy 1992 1993
Edouard Balladur 1993 1995 Second Cohabitation

Scandals and controversies of Mitterrand's presidency and death

Mitterrand came under fire in 1992, when it was revealed that he had arranged for the laying of a wreath of flowers on the grave of Philippe Pétain each Armistice Day since 1987. Pétain had been the leader of French forces at the dramatic Battle of Verdun in World War I, for which he was revered by his contemporaries. Later, however, he became virtual dictator of Vichy France after the French defeat to Germany in World War II, collaborating with Nazi Germany and putting anti-semitic measures into place. Mitterrand's annual tributes marked a departure from those of his predecessors, and offended sensibilities at a time when France was re-examining its culpability in the Holocaust.

Rainbow Warrior bombing

The Rainbow Warrior, a Greenpeace vessel, was preparing to protest against French nuclear testing in the South Pacific when an explosion sank the ship. The New Zealand government called the bombing the country's first terror attack.[6] It has emerged after 20 years that François Mitterrand personally sanctioned the bombing of the Greenpeace ship which killed photographer Fernando Pereira.


Mitterrand, a married man, had numerous extra-marital affairs, one of which was with Anne Pingeot; they had a daughter, Mazarine. Mitterrand sought secrecy on that issue, which lasted until November 1994, when Mitterrand's failing health and impending retirement meant he could no longer count on the fear and respect he had once engendered among French journalists. Also, Mazarine, a college student, had reached an age where she could no longer be protected as a minor.


Paris assisted Rwanda's president Juvénal Habyarimana, who was assassinated on April 6, 1994. Through the offices of the Cellule Africaine, a Presidential office headed by Mitterrand's son, Jean-Christophe, provided the Hutu regime with financial and military support in the early 1990s. With French assistance, the Rwandan army grew from a force of 9,000 men in October 1990 to 28,000 in 1991. France also provided training, staff, experts and massive quantities of weaponry and facilitated arms contracts with Egypt and South Africa. It also financed, armed and trained Habyrimana's Presidential Guard. French troops were sent in the frame of Opération Turquoise, a military operation under the mandate of the United Nations (UN) which activities are currently the object of political and historical debate.


In addition to his strong support for European integration, Mitterrand's legacy includes the introduction of the minimum wage. This protects the unemployed and represents a major contribution to social welfare in France, which could be expected from its first socialist President. However, Mitterand's enduring legacy is likely to be the mere fact that a socialist broke the Gaullist domination of politics and showed that the left could govern without total disaster. Power could change hands and new governments could be formed, which strengthens democracy. However, France's role in arming the Hutus during the genocide in Rwanda, however, strongly mars his reputation.


  1. Daniel Singer, Mitterrand's Legacy, The Nation. Retrieved June 19, 2007.
  2. Pierre Péan (1994), p. 23-35.
  3. Henry Rousso (1987), p. 365.
  4. Albert Bourgi, François Mitterrand et la démocratie en Afrique, huit ans après. Retrieved June 19, 2007.
  5., Les 22 premières conférences des chefs d'Etat de France et d'Afrique. Retrieved June 19, 2007.
  6. Le Monde, Greenpeace, vingt ans après: Le rapport secret de l'amiral Lacoste. Retrieved June 19, 2007.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Bell, David Scott. François Mitterrand: A Political Biography. Cambridge: Polity, 2005. ISBN 978-0745631042.
  • MacShane, Denis. François Mitterrand, a Political Odyssey. New York: Universe Books, 1983. ISBN 978-0876634189.
  • Mitterrand, François, and Elie Wiesel. Memoir in Two Voices. New York: Arcade Pub, 1996. ISBN 978-1559703383.
  • Péan, Pierre. Une jeunesse française: François Mitterrand, 1934-1947. Paris: Fayard, 1994. ISBN 2213593000
  • Ross, George, Stanley Hoffmann, and Sylvia Malzacher. The Mitterrand Experiment: Continuity and Change in Modern France. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. ISBN 978-0195206081.
  • Rousso, Henry. Le syndrome de Vichy: 1944-1984. Paris: Seuil, 1987. ISBN 978-2020097727.
  • Singer, Daniel. Is Socialism Doomed: The Meaning of Mitterrand. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. ISBN 978-0195049251.
  • Tiersky, Ronald. François Mitterrand: The Last French President. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0274853892

External links

All links retrieved April 11, 2024.


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