François Mitterand's Speech
Francois Mitterrand, the fifth child of a stationmaster, was born in Jarnac,
26th October, 1916. An intelligent student Mitterrand studied law and
political science at the University of Paris.
the outbreak of the
Second World War Mitterrand joined the
but in 1940 he was wounded during Germany's
Offensive. After being captured he was taken to Germany, but managed to
escape in December 1941.
Mitterrand arrived in
January 1942 and as a strong supporter of
Petain was given a post in the documentation service of the Legion
Francaise des Combattants. However in 1943 he broke with the government over
the decision by
Pierre Laval to introduce a policy of sending French workers to
now joined the
Resistance and began working with the Organization of Armed Resistance
(ORA). In November, 1943, he travelled to London where he met General
Gaulle, who put him in charge of unifying the different groups
representing former soldiers.
his return to France in February 1944, Mitterrand became head of Mouvement
National Des Prisonniers de Guerre. At the end of the war Mitterrand was
given the job of arranging the return of the thousands of French prisoners
and deportees that were still in
In 1946 was
elected as a Deputy in the French National Assembly. Between 1947 and 1958
Mitterrand held ministerial posts in 11 short-lived centralists governments.
Mitterrand was opposed to the decision by
Gaulle to create a Fifth Republic. This resulted in him losing his seat
in the 1958 elections. His political views now became more radical and in
the 1960s he began the task of building up a new, left of centre
anti-Gaullist alliance, the Federation of the Left.
Mitterrand returned to the French National Assembly in 1962 and three years
later was the Federation's presidential candidate and although achieving 32
per cent of the vote was defeated by
1971 Mitterrand became the leader of the
Party. Over the next few years he embarked on a strategy of electoral
union with the
Party. This proved highly successful and by 1978 it became the single
most popular party in France and in 1981 Mitterrand was elected president.
president Mitterrand introduced a series of radical economic and political
reforms. This included nationalizing financial institutions and several
large corporations, raising the minimum wage, improved welfare benefits and
abolishing the death penalty. However, after the 1986 elections the
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 and secured another seven year
term. As the conservative parties lost their majority, a new left of centre
administration was established. Worried by the economic growth of
Mitterrand supported the Treaty of European Union (1991) which aimed at
providing a centralized European banking system and a common currency.
In 1992 the
Party suffered a crushing defeat with the
right-wing parties winning 484 seats to the left's 92. Three years later
Mitterrand lost the presidential election. Francois Mitterrand died in Paris
on 8th January, 1996.