François Maurice Adrien Marie Mitterrand ( ( listen), 26 October 1916 – 8 January 1996) was the fourth President of France elected under the Fifth Republic, serving from 1981 until 1995. As leader of the Socialist Party, he is the only figure from the left so far elected President under the Fifth Republic.
Reflecting family influences, Mitterrand started political life on the Catholic/nationalist right. He served under the Vichy Regime in its earlier years. Subsequently, however, he joined the Resistance, moved to the left, and held ministerial office repeatedly under the Fourth Republic. He opposed de Gaulle's establishment of the Fifth Republic. Although at times a politically isolated figure, Mitterrand outmanoeuvred rivals to become the left's standard bearer in every presidential election from 1965 to 1988, except 1969. Elected President in the May 1981 presidential election, he was re-elected in 1988 and held office until 1995.
Mitterrand invited the Communist Party into his first government, a controversial move at the time. In the event, the Communists were boxed in as junior partners and, rather than taking advantage, saw their support erode. They left the cabinet in 1984. Early in his first term, Mitterrand followed a radical economic program, including nationalization of key firms, but after two years, with the economy in crisis, he reversed course. His foreign and defense policies built on those of his Gaullist predecessors. His partnership with Helmut Kohl advanced European integration via the Maastricht Treaty, but he accepted German reunification only reluctantly. He was twice forced by the loss of a parliamentary majority into "cohabitation governments" with conservative cabinets led, respectively, by Jacques Chirac (1986–88), and Édouard Balladur (1993–95). Less than 8 months after leaving office, Mitterrand died from the prostate cancer he had sought to conceal throughout his presidency.