Mitterrand, François Maurice

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Mitterrand, François Maurice

(fräNswä` mōrēs` mētəräN`), 1916–96, French political leader, president of France, 1981–95. Initially a supporter of PétainPétain, Henri Philippe
, 1856–1951, French army officer, head of state of the Vichy government (see under Vichy). In World War I he halted the Germans at Verdun (1916), thus becoming the most beloved French military hero of that conflict.
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's Vichy government during World War II, he joined the Resistance in 1943. Mitterrand served in the National Assembly (1946–58) and senate (1959–62). As head of a small left-of-center party, he held ministerial posts in many cabinets from 1947 until 1958, when Charles de Gaullede Gaulle, Charles
, 1890–1970, French general and statesman, first president (1959–69) of the Fifth Republic. The World Wars

During World War I de Gaulle served with distinction until his capture in 1916. In The Army of the Future (1934, tr.
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 became president. Mitterrand later merged his party with several other leftist groups, leading them into a unified Socialist party, of which he became (1971) head.

An outspoken opponent of de Gaulle, Mitterrand ran against him for president in 1965, winning 45% of the vote in a runoff election. In 1974 he again ran for president as the Socialist party candidate, but he lost by a small margin to Valéry Giscard d'EstaingGiscard d'Estaing, Valéry
, 1926–, French political leader, president of France (1974–81); b. Germany. A member of the national assembly at the age of 29, he was deputy finance minister (1959–62) and finance minister (1962–66) in Charles de
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. By 1978 the Socialists were the most popular party in France, and in 1981, Mitterrand became president with the support of the Communist party, which he then marginalized.

Mitterrand's program of bank and insurance company nationalization, wage raises, and decentralization did not stem unemployment and inflation. Mitterrand tried to develop a more conservative program, known as "economic realism," replacing Prime Minister Pierre MauroyMauroy, Pierre
, 1928–2013, French politician. Educated at the École National d'Apprentissage de Cachan, he was a teacher and an active member of the new Socialist party from the 1960s. During the 1970s, he was second only to François Mitterrand in the party.
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, a long-time Socialist, with Laurent FabiusFabius, Laurent
, 1946– French politician. After graduating from the École National d'Administration, he became an auditor at the Council of State and has been a Socialist National Assembly deputy since 1978.
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, a pragmatic economist. Internationally, Mitterrand sought to strengthen the European Community (now the European UnionEuropean Union
(EU), name given since the ratification (Nov., 1993) of the Treaty of European Union, or Maastricht Treaty, to the European Community (EC), an economic and political confederation of European nations, and other organizations (with the same member nations)
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) and pursue an independent foreign policy in the Middle East and Africa. When the Socialists lost the National Assembly in 1986, Mitterrand retained the presidency but had to work with the right-wing government of Premier Jacques ChiracChirac, Jacques René
, 1932–2019, French political leader, president of France (1995–2007), b. Paris. He attended the National School of Administration, joined the civil service, and began his political career in 1961 working for Premier Georges Pompidou.
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. This so-called cohabitation ended in triumph for Mitterrand, who won reelection in 1988.

After the Socialists regained control of the assembly (1988), Mitterrand appointed Michel RocardRocard, Michel Louis Léon,
1930–2016, French political leader. After studying at the École Nationale d'Administration and the Institut d'Études Politiques, he joined the civil service.
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 as premier. Rocard followed Mitterrand's centrist politics, but in 1991 Mitterrand replaced Rocard with Edith CressonCresson, Edith
, 1934–, French politician, b. Edith Campion. After studying at the École des Hautes Études Commerciales, she became a consultant in private industry.
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, who became France's first woman premier. After a poor showing by the Socialists in local elections, Cresson resigned (1992) and was replaced by Pierre BérégovoyBérégovoy, Pierre
, 1925–93, French politician. A leader of the Socialist party after 1969, he was an adviser (1981–82) to François Mitterrand, under whose government he held several ministries, including that of economy and finance as well as
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. Following a conservative victory in the 1993 legislative elections, Mitterrand appointed Édouard BalladurBalladur, Édouard
, 1929–, French political leader, b. Turkey. He moved to France as a child and grew up in Marseille. A Gaullist and member of the Rally for the Republic, he served under Premier Georges Pompidou in the 1960s and was finance minister under
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, a Gaullist, as premier, and he was again forced into cohabitation.

Gravely ill with cancer, Mitterrand retired in 1995, having served longer than any other French president. His personal popularity, pragmatism, and resourcefulness were key to his long and successful tenure in office. Mitterrand's accomplishments as president included a greater internationalism, particularly improved relations with other European nations, and a steady domestic decentralization. His most lasting legacy, however, may lie not in politics but in the multifaceted revitalization of Paris, especially the "Grands Travaux" [great works], a spate of important new urban projects undertaken during his presidency with his active encouragement.


See his posthumously published Memoires interrompues [interrupted memoirs] (1996) and De l'Allemagne, de la France [of Germany, of France] (1996); P. Péan's biography of his early years, A French Youth (1994); D. McShane, François Mitterrand: A Political Odyssey (1982); C. Nay, The Black and the Red: François Mitterrand and the Story of an Ambition (1987); J. W. Friend, Seven Years in France (1989); W. Northcutt, Mitterrand: A Political Biography (1991); A. Cole, François Mitterrand: A Study in Political Leadership (1994); S. Baumann-Reynolds, François Mitterrand: The Making of a Socialist Prince in Republican France (1995); P. Short, A Taste for Intrigue: The Multiple Lives of François Mitterrand (2014).

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