Mitterrand - his legacy 30 years on
As France celebrates the 30th anniversary of the election victory of Socialist President François Mitterrand, would-be contenders for the Party’s candidacy for president in 2012 are attempting to position themselves as his worthy heir. Several likely Socialist Party candidates have openly appealed to the memory of the only Socialist president of France since the foundation of the Fifth Republic.
“What do I remember of François Mitterrand on 10th May 1981” asked François Hollande, the MP for Corrèze, on the French TV channel Canal +. “It’s the victory, the determination, the will, the ability to come through difficult challenges”.
“I too have travelled a long way and I don’t know if it will have the same outcome, but I hope 2012 will have echoes of 1981,” he said.
Martine Aubry, another potential frontrunner for the nomination, writing in Revue socialiste about Mitterrand’s election said: “For me, thirty years later, it’s about bearing witness rather than just paying hommage. It’s a moment to be inspired by rather than to commemorate”.
On Sunday Ségolène Royal, the defeated Socialist candidate in 2007, was introduced at a rally by supporter Pierre Bergé as “the true successor to François Mitterrand”.
Mitterrand served two terms as President of France from 1981 to 1995. He died aged 79 of cancer a year after the 1995 election, which he did not contest.
The Socialist defeat in 1995 marks the beginning of a long period in the political wilderness.
In 2002, the Socialist presidential candidate Lionel Jospin was infamously edged into third place by Jean-Marie Le Pen, then leader of the far right Front National, in the first round.
Five years later Ségolène Royal was defeated by then Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy.
The latest polls put Socialists ahead of President Sarkozy in hypothetical run-offs.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund, received 61 per cent to 39 per cent for Sarkozy in a poll conducted for Paris Match and Europe1 radio while Francois Hollande received 56 per cent of the vote and Martine Aubry took 55 per cent.