The 3 dates to remember
8 January: 25th anniversary of his death
10 May: 40th anniversary of his election as President
9 October: 40th commemoration of the abolition of the death penalty
The celebration of the Mitterand year began with President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Jarnac in Charentes. He gathered in front of the tomb of the late head of state and then went to his home.
François Mitterand’s Youth
François Mitterand was born on October 26, 1916 in Jarnac in Charentes. He studied in Angoulème before joining the Faculty of Law and Sciences-Po.
After his mobilization in 1939, he was wounded and imprisoned in Germany. He eventually escaped in 1941 and joined France and the Resistance. During the Vichy regime, he worked at the Legion of Fighters and Volunteers of the National Revolution, then at the Office of the Commissioner for the Reclassification of Prisoners of War. He resigned in 1943 and went underground before participating in 1944 in the “government of the secretaries general”. It was at this time that he married Danielle Gouze with whom he would have 2 children.
François Mitterand became Member of Parliament for La Nièvre in 1946, and the following year he was Minister of Veterans Affairs when he was only 30 years old. He was then appointed more than 10 times during the Fourth Republic as Minister of Overseas France, then Minister of Information… In favor of the autonomy of the colonies, he opposed the repressive policies in Tunisia and Morocco. In the Mendès France government, he was Minister of the Interior and then Minister of Justice in Guy Mollet’s. Opposed to General de Gaulle in 1958, he supported the no to the Constitution.
In 1959, he became mayor of Château-Chinon and senator de la Nièvre, then was re-elected deputy of the Nièvre in 1962. He became president of the general council of the department., 2 years later. In 1965, he ran for president but was defeated by General de Gaulle.
First Secretary of the PS (1971-1981)
In 1971, during the Epinay Congress, he succeeded in bringing together the Convention of Republican Institutions and the Socialist Party to form a new Socialist Party. He then became secretary of this party and became a strong man of the left. Despite this, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing won the early presidential elections of 1974. As the “Union of the Left” fractured, he decided to run without the Communists in the 1981 presidential elections.
First seven (1981-1988)
France elected François Mitterand, 4th President of the Fifth Republic on 10 May 1981. He thus took his revenge on Valéry Giscard d’Estaing by becoming the first Socialist Head of State of the Fifth Republic.
He appointed Pierre Mauroy, Prime Minister of his first term between 1981 and 1984, Laurent Fabius from 1984 to 1986 and Jacques Chirac from 1986 to 1988 during the first cohabitation after the failure of the left in the legislative elections.
Major economic and social reforms mark the first seven years. However, restrictions related to the fight against inflation and dependence on the world economy.
The major reforms
As soon as he came to power, François Mitterand proposed social and economic reforms:
1981: The 5th week of paid vacation. Revaluation of social benefits (family allowances, unemployment, minimum old age, minimum wage, etc.)
1981: Inauguration of the first TGV Sud-Est line between Paris and Lyon (project by Georges Pompidou in the 1970s, work on which began in 1978).
September 18, 1981: Abolition of the death penalty. France becomes the 36th state to adopt this measure.
1982: The IGF (Tax on Large Fortunes). Deleted by Jacques Chirac in 1987 during the first cohabitation.
1982; Auroux Law (4) on the organization of work (Supervision of the disciplinary power of the entrepreneur, Creation of a right of expression for employees, Financing of the works council, Obligation of annual negotiations on wages and organization of work, Creation of the CHSCT (health, safety and working conditions committee).
1984: Audiovisual liberalization and creation of the first private television channels including Canal +.
1985: Liberation of the capital market to manage public debt. Pierre Bérégovoy created the OAT (bonds assimilable to the Treasury), the BTF (fixed-rate Treasury bills with withholding interest) and the BTAN (fixed-rate Treasury bills with annual interest).
1986: First Francophonie Summit with the heads of state of countries belonging to the International Organization of La Francophonie.
The major projects, developed for the most part by Jack Lang, saw the light of day during François Mitterand’s seven-year term. The projects developed under Giscard d´Estaing have been completed.
1983: Fête de la Musique based on an idea by Jack Lang
1984: Bercy site. The projects of Paul Chemetov and Borja Huidobro were retained in 82 for the Colbert, Vauban and Necker buildings. Those of Louis Arretche and Roman Karasinsky for the Sully and Turgot buildings in 1983. The 6,000 agents moved between 1987 and 1989 at the ministry.
1985: Grande Halle de la Villette. The Parc de la Villette is growing with the City of Science and Industry (Giscard d’Estaing seven-year project) and the Géode by architect Adrien Fainsilber and engineer Gérard Chamayou,
1986: Orsay Museum dedicated to 19th century works
1986: Signature with Margaret Thatcher of the treaty for the construction of a Channel Tunnel in Canterbury.
1987: Arab World Institute (IMA). Designed by Jean Nouvel and the Architecture-Studio agency, it is dedicated to the Arab world and serves as a synthesis between Arab and Western cultures.
Second term (1988-1995)
Mitterrand was re-elected on May 8, 1988. As in the first term, we can see the presence of 5 governments, the last of which marks the second cohabitation led by Edouard Balladur. Before him, Michel Rocard, Edith Cresson and Pierre Bérégovoy were the Prime Ministers.
This second term will be further marked by the major Parisian projects and the scandals that splash the president.
1988: RMI (Revenu Minimum d’Insertion) created by Michel Rocard to respond to social emergencies and help the unemployed at the end of their rights who find themselves without resources.
1988: Reform of the CAP (common agricultural policy).
1989: ISF (Solidarity Tax on Fortune) is the re-establishment of the IGF
1990: TGV Atlantique
1990: Signature of the Schengen Convention
1991: CSG (Generalized Social Contribution) created by Michel Rocard to diversify the financing of social protection. It is based on all the income (activity, investments, savings) of persons domiciled in France as well as those derived from gambling. Its rate is fixed and not progressive.
1991: Five-year plan for universities (“University 2000”). It is at the origin of the creation of new universities and new courses, the launch of a “training credit” giving everyone the possibility of obtaining training capital.
1992: Signature of the Maastricht Treaty
1988: Louvre Pyramid by Chinese-American architect Ieho Ming Pei serves as a new entrance to the Louvre Museum.
1989: Grande Arche of the Fraternité de la Défense. It commemorates the bicentenary of the Declaration of Human Rights. Architect Johann Otto von Spreckelsen and engineer Erik Reitzel completed this project dedicated to philanthropic ideals.
1989: Opéra Bastille, inaugurated for the bicentenary of the Revolution. Uruguayan-born architect Carlos Ott built this new opera house in a popular district.
1993: Channel Tunnel (designed in 1802 by Napoleon) inaugurated after 5 years of work. Made up of 3 rail tunnels between France and the United Kingdom (Round Trip and a service tunnel), it allows passengers and goods to be transported using Eurostar’s Shuttel.
1995: National Library (BNF). Its construction on the Tolbiac site, decided in 1988, was completed in 1995 and is the last building of this two-year term. It is the biggest and the most expensive of all the projects. The public will only be able to access it in 1997.
1995: Inauguration of the Normandy Bridge linking Le Havre to Honfleur.
The hidden face of François Mitterand
More than a dozen cases marred the former president’s political career, to which must be added his health problems (prostate cancer diagnosed in 1981) and the double life with Anne Pingeot and their daughter Mazarine.
1930s / 1940s: Influence of the Far Right. A troubled relationship with René Bousquet, responsible for the deportation of Jews from France during the Vélodrome d’Hiver roundup of July 1942. From 1943, he joined forces with the resistance and the network of François Mitterrand. Arrested at the Liberation, he was acquitted, then continued his career at the Bank of Indochina.
Vichy period: Controversy over his role as a civil servant during this regime.
1956-1957: Role in the execution of 45 people condemned to death for terrorism in the context of the Algerian war, while he was Keeper of the Seals.
1959: Attack on the Observatory. It is said that François Mitterand organized a fake attack to restore his popularity.
1965: Beginning of involvement in the Françafrique network. Elf financed the presidential campaigns from 1965 to 1981. His son, Jean-Christophe, was involved following his connection to a branch of the Pasqua networks.
1982: Affair of the Irish in Vincennes after the attack on rue des Rosiers (75004). The 3 suspects are released after 9 months in prison.
1983-1986: Elysée eavesdropping affair. Several dozen personalities (Jean-Edern Hallier, Edwy Plénel, Carole Bouquet, just like Jean-Pierre Thiollet, Paul-Loup Sulitzer and Jean-Pierre Rassam, are illegally listened to by the anti-terrorist cell of the Elysee Palace. November 9 2005, the judgment of the Paris Criminal Court, condemns 7 former collaborators of the President of the Republic.
1985: Rainbow Warrior case. The Secret Service sabotaged the flagship of the environmental organization Greenpeace, the Rainbow Warrior. The ship was due to reach Moruroa atoll from New Zealand in order to protest against French nuclear tests. The operation leaves one dead.
1986: Carrefour du développement affair. It involves Christian Nucci, Minister of Cooperation and his chief of staff Yves Chalier, who in 1983 created Acad, an association specializing in information problems on the Third World. In 1984, Nucci oversaw the organization of an international summit of African heads of state in Bujumbura (Burundi). To build an infrastructure to host the event, Acad is receiving 80 million francs from public funds to set up the operation. Convicted, Nucci was then granted amnesty.
1990s: Relations with the far right. A rapprochement with the FN in the 1980s would have countered the RPR and prevented the defeat of the Left in the 1986 elections.
1990: Urba case. Hidden financing of the PS and the presidential campaigns linked to the death of 2 construction workers and the invoicing of fictitious services, in return for the award of public contracts. Conviction of Henri Emmanuelli in 1997.
1992: Georges Habache case. The national opposition and Israel protest against the reception in France in the hospital of a terrorist leader.
1993: Death of Pierre Bérégovoy. The former Prime Minister committed suicide near Nevers on May 1, 1993 following his questioning of an unpaid loan from Roger-Patrice Pelat, a close and controversial friend of the President. He also felt responsible for the defeat of the left in the legislative elections of 1993. A controversy quickly arises around this death.
1993: OM-Valenciennes case. UEFA excludes Bernard Tapie’s OM. The latter was sentenced in 1995 to 2 years’ imprisonment, including 1 firm, 3 years of ineligibility and a fine of 20,000 francs for corruption and bribery of witnesses. He appealed and was sentenced to 2 years in prison, 8 months of which was firm.
1994: Genocide in Rwanda. France’s controversial role following military cooperation between the two countries since 1975. It provides military, financial and diplomatic support to the Hutu government against the Rwandan Patriotic Front, created by Tutsi exiles, during the Rwandan civil war that began in 1990. The Rwanda created the Mucyo commission to gather evidence showing the involvement of the French state in the preparation and execution of the genocide perpetrated in Rwanda in 1994.
1994: Suicide of François de Grossouvre. We find the friend of the President of the Republic in his office at the Elysee Palace, his pistol in his hand. After the Bérégovoy affair, this suicide will develop a second controversy.
Last months of presidency and death
On May 7, 1995, Jacques Chirac became President of the Republic. François Mitterand’s mandate ends on the 17th during the handover of powers. In October, he participated in a symposium of former heads of state and government hosted by former US President George H. W. Bush in Colorado Springs.
On January 8, 1996, François Mitterand died in Paris (75007) from the consequences of his prostate cancer. He was buried in Jarnac on January 11, 1996 in the family vault. At the same time, Cardinal Lustiger celebrates an official Mass at Notre-Dame in the presence of 61 heads of state and government including Rainier III, Fidel Castro, Yasser Arafat, Prince Charles, Helmut Kohl. January 11, 1996 is declared a day of national mourning.