François Mitterrand and the gangrene of power

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This month marked the 20th anniversary of the death, on January 8th 1996 at the age of 79, of François Mitterrand, the first socialist president to be elected under France’s Fifth Republic. He served two successive terms in office from 1981 until 1995, during which time current president, François Hollande, and other leading Socialist Party figures received their political schooling. Mediapart editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel takes stock of Mitterrand’s legacy of which, he argues here, the socialists now in power have retained only the dark side.

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“It will be like a deep mourning.” The words were spoken by François Mitterrand when, on March 24th 1993, following parliamentary elections that swept a conservative government to power in France in what was a catastrophe for the Left, he held the last cabinet meeting with ministers of his outgoing socialist government. Mitterrand was to spend the remaining two years of his presidency in political tandem with a right-wing government.