Jospin was the Socialist Party candidate for President of France in the elections of 1995 and 2002. He was narrowly defeated in the final runoff election by Jacques Chirac in 1995. He ran for President again in 2002, and was eliminated in the first round due to finishing behind both Chirac and the far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen, following which he immediately announced his retirement from politics.
Lionel Jospin was born to a Protestant family in Meudon (Hauts-de-Seine), a suburb of Paris. He is the son of Robert Jospin. He attended the Lycée Janson-de-Sailly before studying at the Institut d'études politiques de Paris and the École nationale d'administration (ENA). He was active in the UNEF students' union, protesting against the war in Algeria (1954–62). He completed his military service as an officer in charge of armoured training in Trier (Germany).
After his graduation from the ENA in 1965, he entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as secretary of Foreign Affairs. He became in charge of economic cooperation there, and worked with Ernest-Antoine Seillière, future leader of the MEDEF employers' union.
Representative of a generation of left-wingers who criticized the old SFIO Socialist Party, he joined a Trotskyist group, the Internationalist Communist Organization (OCI) in the 1960s, before entering the renewed Socialist Party (PS) in 1971. Integrating François Mitterrand's circle, he became the second highest-ranking member of the party in 1979, then its First Secretary when Mitterrand was elected President of France in 1981. When President Mitterrand decided, in 1982–1983, to change his economic policy in giving the priority at the struggle against inflation and for a hard currency, Jospin justified his choice in saying the Socialist power open just a "parenthesis". In 1984, when Laurent Fabius was chosen as Prime minister, a rivalry appeared between these two political heirs of Mitterrand. It broke out when they competed for the leadership of the 1986 legislative campaign.
In 1988, after Mitterrand's re-election, he left the PS leadership, and, though the President considered naming him Prime Minister, he was nominated Minister of Education. Under Jospin's tenure as education minister, teacher training was consolidated, the lycees and universities were reformed, teachers’ salaries were improved, and technical and vocational education were reformed, which the socialists saw as a means of improving economic performance, tackling youth unemployment, and attaining social justice.
His rivalry with Fabius intensified and caused an internal crisis, notably during the Rennes Congress (1990). Indeed, the mitterrandist group in the party split because Jospin' followers allied with the others factions to prevent the election of Fabius as First Secretary. These events damaged his relation with President Mitterrand and, after the failure of the Socialist Party at the March 1992 local elections, Jospin was not included in the new government formed by Pierre Bérégovoy.
As a member of the National Assembly, Jospin served first as a representative of Paris (1978–86), and then of Haute-Garonne département (1986–88). Jospin lost his seat in the National Assembly in the Socialists' landslide defeat in the 1993 legislative election and announced his political retirement.
In 1993, Lionel Jospin was appointed ministre plénipotentiaire, 2nd class (a rank of ambassador), a position that he held until his appointment as Prime Minister in 1997. He was, however, not appointed to any embassy.
Finally, he came back and claimed the necessity to "take stock" of the mitterrandist inheritance so as to restore the credibility of the Socialist Party. In this, he was selected to be the Socialist candidate for President in 1995, against the PS leader Henri Emmanuelli. In the run-up to the election, Jospin made various policy proposals for a Jospin presidency, such as a programme for the environment, an extension of social services, a housebuilding programme, the rebuilding of run-down parts of cities, and a 37-hour workweek.
Following the Socialists' landslide defeats of 1992–1994, Jospin was considered to have little chance of victory. But he did surprisingly well, leading the first round and losing only very narrowly to Jacques Chirac in the final runnoff election. Despite defeat, his performance was seen to mark a revival of the Socialists as a strong force in French politics and he returned to being the First Secretary of the party.
He built a new coalition with the other left-wing parties: the French Communist Party, the Greens, the Left Radical Party and the dissident Citizen and Republican Movement. Two years later, Chirac decided to call an early election for the National Assembly, hoping for a personal endorsement. But the move backfired as the "Plural Left" obtained a parliamentary majority and Jospin became Prime Minister.
Jospin is a Member of the Club of Madrid.
Jospin served as Prime Minister during France's third "cohabitation" government under President Jacques Chirac from 1997 to 2002.
Despite his previous image as a rigid socialist, Jospin went on selling state-owned enterprises, lowered the VAT rate, income tax and company tax.
His government also introduced the 35-hour workweek, provided additional health insurance for those on the lowest incomes through the creation of Couverture maladie universelle (which made health care in France a universal right, and was regarded by Lionel Jospin and Martine Aubry as one of the “beacons” of their incumbency), promoted the representation of women in politics, expanded the social security system, and created the PACS – a civil partnership or union between two people, whether of opposite genders or not. During his term, with the help of a favorable economic situation, unemployment fell by 900,000. There were several women but no members of ethnic minorities in Jospin's government.
The “law against social exclusion” (1998) extended social security and introduced various measures to combat poverty. These included:
(1.) The optimization of extra earnings for Revenu minimum d'insertion recipients.
(2.) The introduction of CMU.
(3.) Guaranteeing supplies of telephone, water, and electricity services for the impoverished, such as by paying off outstanding bills.
(4.) Increased housing allowances and subsidized housing “concomitant with the introduction of a tax on unused apartments”.
(5.) Direct levels of assistance to groups with special problems on the labour market (including low-skilled persons, older unemployed persons, young people, and the long-term unemployed) through the provision of integration, internship, and continuing education programs, personal guidance and mentoring, and wage subsidies.
Continuous improvements were made in social benefits during Jospin’s time in office, together with increases in the minimum wage. A 3% increase was carried out in the RMI and two similar minimum income guarantees in 1998, backdated a year, while expenditure on healthcare and education was increased. A parity law was introduced, which obliged all parties to field an identical number of female and male candidates in national elections. A decree was issued immediately after the start of Jospin’s time in office which boosted the bonus paid to parents at the start of the school year from 420 to 1,600 francs for households with a monthly income of less than 11,600 francs.
Reductions were made in employee’s health-insurance contributions, with employee premiums reduced from 6.75 to 0.75%. To compensate for lost revenues, the CSG was raised from 3.5% to 7.5%, while income from rent and capital was taxed more. This almost complete shift of employee’s health-insurance contributions to the welfare tax CGT resulted in the purchasing power of employees rising by circa 1%. Various measures were also taken to make the tax system more progressive. The Jospin Government began taxing capital assets by introducing a tax on savings, particularly life insurance. A major reform of the welfare tax CSG was carried out, which doubled the percentage share of taxes in the financial structure of the welfare state and resulted in an almost 10% fall in the share of contributions. Other measures included an increase in revenues from the wealth tax, a reduction in the lower marginal tax rate from 10.5% to 7%, a rise in taxation on profits from stock options from 40% to 50%, a 1997 increase in the exemption for the lowest tax bracket, a reduction in taxes on apartment sales, housing, and other fees, and the abolition of taxes on cars and roadways. In addition, income tax cuts were introduced in March and September 2000 which disproportionately favoured low and non-earners.
An “employment premium” was introduced in 2002, similar to tax credits in the UK and US, providing a state subsidy to low-wage earners. Within a few years, eight million people had benefited from this scheme. Funds were provided for the renovation of public housing, while company pension savings plans were extended to cover small and medium enterprises. The Jospin Government also made it possible for SMEs to jointly establish this kind of fund. A state-supervised reserve fund for old-age insurance was established, which created marginal capital coverage and was designed to protect pension levels from financial-market risks. Spending on education was increased by 19% from 1997 to 2002, while spending on labour was increased by 13% over that same period Social contributions for low-income workers were reduced, and a 5% increase in the RMI was carried out. A reform of women's rights and anonymous childbirth was carried out, together with a number of progressive educational reforms. These included the re-launching of the Educational Priority Zones, the establishment of the programme "Tourism And The Handicapped" ("Tourisme et handicap"), the implementation of language instruction as a priority in primary schools, the establishment of the "Plan Handiscole" for the education of handicapped children and adolescents, and their integration into life at school, the establishment of a national home-tutoring programme, the introduction of local education and citizenship education contracts.
A wide range of child-centred policies were also implemented. These included the introduction of mandatory civics instruction in secondary schools, the introduction of financial support for child illness care, together with parental time-off obligations, the introduction of special education support (parents d'enfants handicaps), a law against paedophile pornography, the establishment of a government student lunch programme, the launching of "Initiatives citoyennes" to teach children how to live together, the launching of a campaign against "hazing" of children, the creation of programs for parental involvement in schools, together with national campaigns for the elections of parent-representatives, the passage of a law designed to safeguard children's rights and campaign against violence in schools, a law against the prostitution of minors, providing penal measures for clients, the establishment of the association "Childhood and the Media," against violence in the media and the creation of 40,000 new child care places.
Various measures were introduced to enhance facilities and benefits for people with disabilities. A turnaround of the justice system was carried out, aimed at ensuring that a defendant really is innocent until proven guilty. The linking of benefit payments to the cost of living was introduced, together with a one billion franc emergency package for the unemployed. A FRF 500 million budget established to fund partly the training benefit payable to unemployed persons (1998). Improvements in the handicapped employment service, COTOREP, were carried out, while measures were introduced to upgrade handicapped access to public transport together with all types of buildings used by members of the general public.
The government established the right of an employee to take time off work if a child of the family was seriously ill. This was supported by a grant which replaced lost income to some extent, and provided financial support to parents going back to work following a child’s illness. A law was passed against discrimination (on sexual, racial, physical grounds, etc.) to bring French law into line with new EU anti-discrimination legislation. A campaign was launched against violence and racketeering, accompanied by the implementation of an "SOS Violence" telephone number. Various programmes for transportation were introduced, both mass and individual. An improved housing allowance was introduced, together with longer fixed contracts.
A law passed in July 2000 on the organization and promotion of physical and sports activities emphasised the obligation to take into account the different types of disabilities in the organization of physical and sports education programs within educational and vocational training centers or special facilities. As a result of the legislation, sports specialists and teachers were required to receive an initial special training and continuing education to better facilitate the access of disabled persons to physical and sports activities. Laws were also passed in November 2001 and March 2002 that added to the list of grounds of discrimination physical appearance, sexual orientation, age, and genetic characteristics.
A law was passed in 1999 which provided legal access to and development of palliative care, “allowing legal leave to support a family member in the last stage of a terminal illness.” The Solidarity and Urban Renewal Law (2000) required that at least 20% of the housing stock in all urban municipalities over 3,500 inhabitants should consist of social housing. while a law was passed on sexual equality in the workplace, including an article repealing the ban on night work for women, in order to comply with EU sex equality legislation. A law was passed in July 2001 that included various social, educational and cultural provisions that lay the legal foundation for the implementation of back to work assistance programs included in an unemployment insurance agreement from January that year. An anti-discrimination law was passed in November that same year which safeguarded employees from all forms of discrimination affecting training, such as access to recruitment procedures or in-company training.
The 'social modernisation' bill included work-related provisions such as measures to combat 'moral harassment' (bullying) at work, measures to combat precarious employment (through restrictions on fixed-term contracts), and improved accreditation of vocational skills and experience. The law also contained a wide range of redundancy provisions such as the requirement to convene negotiations on the 35-hour week prior to any redundancy plan, enhanced powers for works councils, a contribution to the regeneration of closed sites by companies with a workforce of over 1,000, nine-month redeployment leave for redundant workers, and the doubling of the minimum redundancy compensation. A law on 'new economic regulations' was passed which aimed at adding an 'ethical' aspect to financial practices, “clarifying competition rules, improving social dialogue and enforcing the rights of consumers.” In terms of industrial relations, the new law strengthened (to some extent) the powers of works councils in takeovers, mergers and proposed share exchanges. The Social and Medical Action Act, introduced in January 2002, provided additional protection for the rights of users of social and social/medical facilities.
A wide range of new social benefits were introduced, including the Allocation Specifique d’attente (ASA), an additional benefit for unemployed persons under the age of 60 who had contributed or at least 40 years to the pension insurance, l'allocation spécifique d'attente (APA), a home care allowance for the over-60’s which made it possible for beneficiaries to spend their old age at home rather than in a care home, a benefit for seriously injured or sick children, and a benefit to encourage women to re-enter the labour market.
An enhancement of the universal CMU health scheme was carried out, through the abolition of the spending ceiling for dentistry and the extension of the 'direct settlement' system for former benefit recipients whose income now exceeded the statutory ceiling. Paid paternity leave was introduced, and a law was passed to reform employee savings schemes The main purpose of this legislation was to increase the duration and scope of employee savings schemes, by extending them to employees of small and medium-sized businesses and increasing the 'lock-in' period for employee savings from 5 to 10 years.
The Jospin Government also established (within the framework of a policy to improve coverage for industrial diseases) of a compensation fund for asbestos victims, and extended the right to asylum. A conditional amnesty for illegal immigrants was carried out, with some 75,000 obtaining legal residence as a result. Measures aimed at reintegrating the very long-term unemployed into the workforce were strengthened in 1998, and emergency groups were set up that same year in each département coordinated by the senior local representatives of the government at département level (préfets), with the objective of examining individual payments to those most in need. An overhaul of housing assistance scales was carried out, and a law on gender equality at work was introduced. This legislation removed the ban on night work for women, and introduced new regulations for this type of work, with covered all employees. A social security funding law for 2002 was passed which, amongst other measures, provided a general rise in pensions and increased paternity leave (from 3 to 11 days).
Some structural barriers to employment were removed by making it easier to combine income from work with income from social transfers. Capital incomes were taxed more heavily, while various measures were introduced which benefited lower social strata and improved their purchasing power. Employees were the sole beneficiaries of lowered welfare contributions. Welfare benefits were raised, while income tax progression was increased, with tax cuts benefiting lower-income groups more strongly than higher-groups. Lower-income sections of the population received targeted support, and almost all tax measures introduced by the Jospin Government sought to stimulate demand and reduce inequality. Between 1997 and 2002, purchasing power as a proportion of household revenue from by 16%, the biggest five-year increase in over twenty years. In addition, total government spending rose 8.9% from 1997 to 2002. Altogether, the social and economic policies implemented by the Jospin Government helped to reduce social and economic inequalities, with income inequality in terms of the Gini coefficient falling between 1997 and 2001.
In international affairs, Jospin mostly steered clear of foreign policies during his time in government. However, in 2000, he denounced Hezbollah's "terrorist attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilian populations", a position markedly more pro-Israel than that of president Chirac. On 26 February, when visiting Birzeit University, stones were thrown at him by Palestinian students, resulting in a minor injury.
Jospin was a candidate in the presidential campaign of 2002. While he appeared to have momentum in the early stages, the campaign came to be focused mainly on law-and-order issues, in which, it was argued, the government had not achieved convincing results; this coincided with a strong focus of the media on a number of egregious crime cases. The Prime Minister was also strongly criticized by the far left for his moderate economic policies, which, they contended, were not markedly different from that of right-wing governments favoring businesses and free markets. Jospin’s 2002 presidential manifesto was, nevertheless, a strongly progressive one, calling for access to housing to be made a universal right, supporting employee representation on the supervisory boards of companies, and advocating better provisions for older people and the disabled. As noted by one observer, Jospin’s manifesto sought to balance its emphasis on ‘inequalities in income’ with ‘equality of opportunity,’ eliminating poverty with special regard to housing whilst promoting social investment through (particularly) education.
Many left-wing candidates contested the election, gaining small percentages of the vote in the first ballot, chipping away at Jospin's support. As a result, Jospin narrowly polled in third place, behind Chirac and the Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, and thus did not go through to the runoff second round of voting.
Following his defeat in April 2002, Jospin immediately declared his decision to leave politics and stepped down as Prime Minister. He has since made episodic comments on current political affairs; for instance, he declared his opposition to same-sex marriage. In 2005, he returned to the national political scene by campaigning forcefully in favor of the proposed European Constitution.
In 2006, Jospin made it known that he was "available" to be the Socialist candidate for the 2007 presidential election. When Ségolène Royal became ascendant in the polls, however, Jospin retracted his candidacy in order not to "divide the party".
On 14 July 2012, French President François Hollande announced that Lionel Jospin would lead a commission on deontology and ethics in French political life. This commission has been criticized for being too similar to the Edouard Balladur commission that was created in 2007 by Nicolas Sarkozy on the same topic. Some Union for a Popular Movement members also criticized the participation of Roselyne Bachelot.
The commission is supposed to give its recommendations before the end of the year.
Prime Minister : 1997–2002.
Minister of State, Minister of National Education and Sport : 1988–1992.
Member of European Parliament : 1984–1988 (Became minister). Elected in 1984.
National Assembly of France
Member of National Assembly of France for Paris (27th constituency) : 1981–1986. Elected in 1981.
Member of National Assembly of France for Haute-Garonne (7th constituency) : 1986–1988 (Became minister) / 1992–1993. Elected in 1986, reelected in 1988, 1992.
Regional councillor of Midi-Pyrénées : 1992–1997 (Resignation).
General councillor of Haute-Garonne : 1988–2002 (Resignation). Reelected in 1994, 2001.
Councillor of Paris : 1977–1986 (Resignation). Reelected in 1983.
First Secretary of the Socialist Party (France) (Leader) : 1981–1988 (Resignation) / 1995–1997 (Resignation). Reelected in 1983, 1985, 1987.Lionel Jospin – Prime Minister
Hubert Védrine – Minister of Foreign Affairs
Alain Richard – Minister of Defense
Jean-Pierre Chevènement – Minister of the Interior
Dominique Strauss-Kahn – Minister of Economy, Finance, and Industry
Martine Aubry – Minister of Employment and Solidarity
Élisabeth Guigou – Minister of Justice
Claude Allègre – Minister of National Education, Research, and Technology.
Catherine Trautmann – Minister of Culture and Communication
Louis Le Pensec – Minister of Agriculture and Forests
Dominique Voynet – Minister of Environment and Regional Planning
Marie-George Buffet – Minister of Youth and Sport
Jean-Claude Gayssot – Minister of Transport, Housing, and Equipment
Daniel Vaillant – Minister of Relations with Parliament
Émile Zuccarelli – Minister of Civil Service, Reform of the State, and Decentralization
Nicole Péry – Secretary for State for Women
Changes20 October 1998 – Jean Glavany succeeds Le Pensec as Minister of Agriculture and Forests.
2 November 1999 – Christian Sautter succeeds Strauss-Kahn as Minister of Economy, Finance, and Industry.
28 March 2000 – Laurent Fabius succeeds Sautter as Minister of Economy, Finance, and Industry. Jack Lang succeeds Allègre as Minister of National Education, while Roger-Gérard Schwartzenberg succeeds him as Minister of Research and Technology. Catherine Tasca succeeds Trautmann as Minister of Culture and Communication. Michel Sapin succeeds Zuccarelli as Minister of Civil Service and Reform of the State.
29 August 2000 – Daniel Vaillant succeeds Chevènement as Minister of the Interior. Jean-Jack Queyranne succeeds Vaillant as Minister of Relations with Parliament.
18 October 2000 – Élisabeth Guigou succeeds Aubry as Minister of Employment and Solidarity. Marylise Lebranchu succeeds Guigou as Minister of Justice.
10 July 2001 – Yves Cochet succeeds Voynet as Minister of Environment and Regional Planning.
25 February 2002 – François Patriat succeeds Glavany as Minister of Agriculture and Forests.
On 5 June 2001, Lionel Jospin confessed before the Parliament that he had maintained links with a Trotskyist formation "in the 1960s" and with Pierre Lambert's party (the Internationalist Communist Organization, OCI) after joining the Socialist Party in 1971. Jospin was recruited into the OCI, when he was studying at the ENA, by Boris Fraenkel, one of the OCI's founders. He became an active member of the OCI after quitting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1968, under the pseudonym of "Michel". Although he declined to locate with precision his rupture with the Lambertists, Le Monde alleged it was in 1986–87, a year before becoming minister, while Lambert himself implicitly situated it in 1988. Jospin stated that he had maintained only "private relationship" with OCI members after joining the PS.
Jospin had concealed his relationship with the OCI while following a strategy of entrism into other parties, and specifically denied it when asked about it (claiming in 1995 that the rumor came from a confusion with his brother Olivier). In 2001, investigative journalists and successive revelations by former Communist associates showed him to have been lying, and he confessed the truth.