Exposition place de la Bastille pour les 40 ans de l’avènement de F. Mitterand

On May 10, 1981, François Mitterrand was elected President of the French Republic. For the first time since the establishment of the Fifth Republic, a socialist acceded to the Élysée.

The left waited 23 years before coming to power. It is in his stronghold of Château-Chinon that François Mitterrand discovers his victory on television, where his portrait is drawn. He beats Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in the second round with a score of 51.76% against 48.24%. The same evening, he celebrates his victory at Place de la Bastille with thousands of supporters. He appoints Pierre Mauroy, first minister.

By becoming the 4th president of the 5th Republic, he marks a turning point in political life French. He served a second term in 1988 and remained at the head of the country until 1995. François Mitterrand is still, 40 years later, a reference for many political leaders of left.


François Mitterrand is also the president of political cohabitation. In 1986, after the victory of the right in the legislative elections, he established a situation hitherto unprecedented: the cohabitation between a chief of state and an opposing parliamentary majority.

By the Constitution, most of the executive power is concentrated, for the first time since 1959, at the Hôtel Matignon, but the President of the Republic retains the means of action which are his clean and not insignificant.

This situation ended in 1988 with the presidential election. The outgoing president prevails over his former prime minister, Jacques Chirac.

Second term (1988-1995)

After this re-election, the same scenario recurs from 1993 to 1995. Indeed, the Socialists suffered a resounding defeat in the legislative elections of 1993 (17.6% of the vote in the first round).

Edouard Balladur becomes prime minister but the president opposes decisions of his government repeatedly.

1. Refusal of the revision of the Falloux law, in force since 1850, on the financing of investments in private schools

2. Refusal of French nuclear tests in the Pacific.

3. Debate on the need for a constitutional revision for the application of the agreements of Schengen.

Youth and political beginnings

François Mitterrand was born on October 26, 1916 in Jarnac (Charentes) in a family of 8 children. He has 3 brothers and 4 sisters. He studied in Angoulême before obtaining a diploma in public law and participate in 1939 in the Second World War. A prisoner in Germany, he escaped after several attempts in 1941.

Back in France, he joined the Resistance in 1942 where he met Danielle Gouze who became his wife in 1944. At the same time, he participated in the Vichy regime until 1943. There receives the highest distinction of the regime, the “Francisque”.

Political career

In 1946, he became deputy for Nièvre and remained until 1958. A year later, he was appointed Minister of Veterans Affairs, the youngest minister under the Fourth Republic. Favorable to the autonomy of the colonies, he opposes the policies of repression in Tunisia and Morocco.

Minister of the Interior in the Pierre Mendès France government, then Minister of Justice in that of Guy Mollet, he supports the “no” to the French Constitution of 1958.

Mayor of Château-Chinon and senator from Nièvre Mitterrand in 1959, he organized a “false” attack in order to increase its popularity rating. Re-elected deputy in 1962, he became president of the Council general of the department in 1964. The following year, he ran for president but the General de Gaulle wins with 55% in the second round.

During the Congress of Epinay in 1971, he managed to bring together the Convention of Republican Institutions and the Socialist Party, of which he is first secretary. Despite this, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing wins to the early presidential elections of 1974.

After the good results of the PS in the cantonal and municipal, the party is moving away from the PCF. It is therefore the only one he presented himself in 1981. Elected for 2 successive terms from 1981 to 1995, he was responsible for big works and new laws.

Major works and major institutions

For 14 years, the president applied a cultural policy including great achievements architecture and town planning, but also new institutions.

First term nineteen eighty one:

• Authorization of private free radios.

• Promulgation of the abolition of the death penalty on October 9, 1981.


• Fête de la Musique, instituted by Jack Lang, officially declared in 1983 and included in the whole world from 1984.

• End of the State’s audiovisual monopoly and creation of the first free channels including Canal +.

• Nationalization of 39 banks and large industrial groups.

• Establishment of 39 hours a week of work and the 5th week of paid leave.

• Retirement at age 60. The Auroux ordinance grants retirement from the age of 60, for 37.5 years of contribution, at the full rate of 50% of the average annual salary.

• Nationalization of 39 banks including Crédit Lyonnais and Suez and large groups manufacturers such as Thomson, Péchiney or St Gobain.

• The IGF (Tax on Large Fortunes), tax on capital, becomes ISF (Tax on Fortune). Withdrawn in 2018, it is replaced by the IFI (Impôt sur la Fortune Immobilière).

• Decriminalization of homosexuality.

• The right to information allows the pluralism of daily newspapers.

• Consolidation of the Franco-German axis with Helmut Kohl. Chirac 1st minister and 1st cohabitation.


• French intervention in Chad in August. In September 1984, France signed a evacuation agreement with Libya.


• Maintaining nuclear power.

• Hand in hand with Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand in Berlin. Intensification of the unionFranco-German.


• Inauguration of Parc de la Villette (75019) de la Géode designed by architect Adrien Fainsilber and the engineer Gérard Chamayou.


• 1st cohabitation, Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister.

• Inauguration of the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, created under the seven-year term of Giscard d’Estaing,

• The first Francophonie summits take place. Heads of State of countries belonging to the International Organization of La Francophonie meet there.


• Inauguration of the Musée d’Orsay created under the leadership of President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. It is the transformation of the former Orsay station into an arts museum.

• Inauguration of the IMA (Institut du Monde Arabe). Giscard d’Estaing had decided the construction and Jean Nouvel is its architect.


• First inauguration of the Louvre Pyramid, a project suggested by Jack Lang in 1981.

Designed by the Sino-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei, it stands in the Napoleon courtyard and returns to the Louvre its Richelieu wing.

Second term

This mandate is marked by the Schengen agreements and the Maastricht Treaty. It is also the collapse of the Eastern bloc and the fall of the Berlin Wall, not to mention the Second World War Gulf. For the first time in 91, the Prime Minister is a woman: Edith Cresson. Pierre Bérégovoy quickly replaced her. The 90s are marked by scandals: Revelation of a hidden girl, Mazarine Pingeot but also cancer existing since 1981, unveiled. His activities during the 1930s and the Vichy regime came back to the surface without forgetting the suicide of Bérégovoy. France loses its power in Africa following the Rwandan genocide. URBA business and contaminated blood mar the seven-year term.


• Opening to the public of the Louvre Pyramid. Composed of 603 diamonds and 70 triangles, it is the heart of the “Grand Louvre” project.

• Inauguration of the Opéra Bastille designed by architect Carlos Ott, a major music venue “modern and popular”.

• Inauguration of the Grande Arche de la Fraternité, designed by architect Johann Otto von Spreckelsen and engineer Erik Reitzel, in the district of La Défense (Puteaux). It is dedicated to philanthropic ideals. 1991


• Establishment of “University 2000”, a five-year plan for universities. He is at the origin the creation of new universities and new courses, but also the launch of a “training credit” giving everyone the possibility of obtaining training capital.


• Inauguration of the new National Library of France (BNF), “one or more largest and most modern library in the world. “This is the latest and most expensive major works of the 2 seven-year periods.

40th anniversary

To celebrate this 40th anniversary, all the Socialists gathered at Le Creusot (72) in the invitation of the mayor PS David Marti. Top party stars posed for the souvenir photo. Among himself found former President François Hollande, former Prime Ministers Lionel Jospin and Bernard Cazeneuve, the mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, Pierre Joxe, Jean Glavany but also Gilbert

Mitterrand, son of the former president. … Nostalgia was on the menu of the organized round tables.

For his part, Emmanuel Macron will bring together “the former Elysee under Mitterrand” for the occasion;

Only one absent: Lionel Jospin.

The left, very weakened, leaves for the 2022 presidential elections, very divided. There are too many differences between La France Insoumise by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the Greens who want to get ahead of the Socialists.

The latter are themselves divided in their support for Anne Hidalgo.

An exhibition to celebrate the 40th anniversary of May 10, 81

From May 10 to 16, the city of Paris and the Mitterrand Foundation are offering the public an exhibition celebrating the 40th anniversary of May 10, 1981. Small tents welcome visitors to the Place de la Bastille, around the July column. What other place to choose, than the one that celebrated the victory of the president on May 10, 1981 in front of 200,000 people? This stroll is accompanied by texts, speeches, videos and photos of the time. You can also attend conferences.

This exhibition is part of a larger circle of commemorations and conferences which

are organized by the Organizing Committee of the commemorations of May 10, 1981.


• MAY 10 TO 16, 2021

• Place de la Bastille, around the July Column

• from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday then from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday.

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