The National Times - French Greens face crisis after failed presidential bid

French Greens face crisis after failed presidential bid

French Greens face crisis after failed presidential bid
French Greens face crisis after failed presidential bid

France's Green party were facing a financial and political crisis on Monday after a deeply disappointing presidential election saw their candidate finish sixth and struggle to put climate change on the national agenda.

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Yannick Jadot from the Europe Ecology-The Greens party (EELV) was eliminated in Sunday's first round with a score of around 4.6 percent, following a campaign that never gathered momentum.

Under French campaign financing rules, only candidates who score above 5.0 percent have their expenses reimbursed by the state, leaving the Greens with a huge hole in their accounts.

"The situation is critical and the fact that we came below the bar of five percent puts us in a very, very difficult situation," national secretary Julien Bayou told France Inter radio on Monday.

He appealed for donations from those who backed the party, as well as others "who would have liked to vote for Yannick Jadot and perhaps voted for another candidate."

"We need this support to be able to continue to ensure the ecology movement lives on," Bayou added.

President Emmanuel Macron finished top in Sunday's vote on around 27.6 percent followed by far-right leader Marine Le Pen on 23.4 percent, with the pair set to contest a run-off vote scheduled for April 24.

EELV was not the only party appealing for financial help on Monday, with the once-mighty right-wing Republicans also facing a 7.0-million-euro ($7.6 million) hole in their finances after their candidate, Valerie Pecresse, scored just under 5.0 percent on Sunday.

The performance from Jadot, a former Greenpeace executive, spelled bitter disappointment for his party which was hoping to build on successes in local elections last year which saw them sweep major cities from Lyon to Bordeaux.

Germany's historically more powerful Green party entered government after elections last year and controls several ministries and key posts in the cabinet, including the foreign minister role.

- 'Enormous disappointment' -

Jadot scored slightly better than the last ecologist candidate to stand -- Eva Joly with 2.3 percent in 2012 -- but less well than Noel Mamere in 2002 who secured 5.25 percent despite the stakes for the planet being much higher in 2022.

In a concession speech on Sunday night, Jadot said his programme sought to respond to the challenges posed by climate change, as well as growing economic inequalities in France.

"It's an understatement to say that these vital challenges -- vital for our country, vital for us and our children -- were largely ignored in a campaign that was confiscated," he said.

The Covid-19 pandemic overshadowed the start of campaigning before Russia's invasion of Ukraine changed the dynamic completely, making foreign policy and the rocketing cost of living key issues for voters.

Jadot was also eclipsed by hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who put a big emphasis on the environment during his campaign and finished third, only narrowly missing out on a place in the run-off.

Remi Lefebvre, a French political scientist at the University of Lille in northeast France, told AFP before the vote that the Greens had been "the enormous disappointment of this campaign."

"The problem with the greens is its social base," he explained. "They can't reach working-class people because the greens are not seen as reassuring."

Low-income families often see their pitch as boiling down to "they're going to ask us to tighten our belts even more", Lefebvre said, while the educated, urban middle classes tended to vote for Macron.

Jadot called on his 1.5 million voters on Sunday to back Macron in the second round to bar the far-right from power, while pointing out his differences with the president.

He said the vote "is not approval for your responsibility in the fracturing of the country due to your inaction on the climate, your social failures, conformism and democratic contempt."