The general election campaign in France officially opened today (20 February), and the man best placed at the moment to feel confident about the outcome is the Socialist party leader, Monsieur Francois Mitterrand.
The general election campaign in France officially opened today (20 February), and the man best placed at the moment to feel confident about the outcome is the Socialist party leader, Monsieur Francois Mitterrand. His party is the largest in the left-wing group, and the latest public opinion poll, published on Sunday (19 February), shows the left maintaining a lead of 51 percent of the votes compared with 45 percent for the government coalition.
SYNOPSIS: Francois Mitterrand is now 62. Aloof and intellectual, the tricks of popular campaigning do not come easily; but he has been in politics long enough to accept their importance.
His first ran for the President in 1965, against General de Gaulle. With solid left-wing support he came second of the six candidates, but was decisively beaten by the General in the second ballot. Mitterrand disliked de Gualle personally, and as a liberal democrat regarded the General as authoritarian. He led the campaign in 1968 to try to force de Gualle from office.
In 1974, he made his second bid for the Presidency, and came close to achieving it. Monsieur Valery Giscard D'Estaing emerged with barely 51 per cent of the vote; Monsieur Mitterrand with over 49 per cent. By this time he was firmly established as Socialist Party leader. It had been reshaped in 1971, and Mitterrand appointed First Secretary.
His commitment to Socialism has been queried by the far left, but his opposition to dictatorship is well established. A protest against executions by the France government in Spain found him alongside the Communist leader, Monsieur Georges Marchais, in the vanguard of the demonstration.
Relations between the Socialist and Communist parties have been one of Monsieur Mitterrand's chief preoccupations -- for under the French electoral system they need to work together in the second ballot to defeat the parties of the right. In 1972, the two parties negotiated a common programme based on nationalisation of nine major industries, higher wages and increased taxation of big incomes. The alliance broke down in September last year, over communist demands for wider nationalisation. Whether this will affect their mutual support for each other's candidates in the election is still in doubt.
Monsieur Mitterrand has taken steps to make himself known internationally. In 1975. he was the first leader of his party to visit Senegal -- one of France's principal associates in Africa -- and hold talks with President Leopold Senghor. He also appears regularly at meetings of the Socialist International Recognition of his standing as the possible next Prime Minister of France came when President Carter visited Paris last month. He had half an hour's talk with Monsieur Mitterrand at the American Ambassador's residence. The meeting caused annoyance to the Guallist leader, Monsieur Jacques Chirac, who is also Mayor of Paris, and thought the United States President should have found time to see him. After meeting Monsieur Mitterrand, President Carter walked to the Elysee Place for more talks with President Giscard.
Meanwhile, for Monsieur Mitterrand; just a month before he knows whether he has reached high office at last.