French Green Party fails to log on ahead of election

MONTPELLIER, France — Yannick Jadot, the French Green Party candidate in April’s presidential election, marched through a small cheering...

MONTPELLIER, France — Yannick Jadot, the French Green Party candidate in April’s presidential election, marched through a small cheering crowd to a podium topped with banners depicting his face, as speakers blasted a version of “What a Wonderful World” by punk rock singer Joey Ramone. The candidate nodded rhythmically.

The event, which took place on a recent afternoon in the sun-drenched central square of Montpellier, a major city on France’s Mediterranean coast, had all the trappings of a vibrant and enthusiastic campaign. “Environmentalism is about fun!” said a speaker introducing M. Jadot.

But with less than 30 days to go before the first round of the French presidential elections, the Greens’ campaign has so far not generated much public enthusiasm. For weeks, Mr. Jadot has been stuck 5% in pollsabout a third from the top three right-wing contenders and a sixth from support for President Emmanuel Macron.

Mr. Jadot said in an interview that “the French are not yet invested in the electoral campaign”, while other more dramatic issues such as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine take up much of their attention. He added that he remained “confident” that voters would soon focus on environmental issues.

But so far, preparations for the elections have been dominated by issues such as Security, immigration and national identityreflecting France’s Recent Right Shift. By comparison, climate issues have been largely ignored, accounting for 2.5% of media coverage of the election over the past four weeks, according to a study published by several environmental groups.

The problem, analysts say, is that the French Greens have failed to bring in new ideas and create a clear and cohesive platform that goes beyond their core problems. They also point to the party’s struggle to be seen as a credible government force capable of handling issues like diplomacy and defence, as is the case in Germany, where the Greens are now part of a tripartite government coalition.

In one recent test, Bruno LatourFrench anthropologist and philosopher, and Nikolaj Schultza Danish sociologist, said green parties had failed to deliver inspiring stories of hope for a better world.

“So far, environmental policy is succeeding in maddening people’s minds and making them yawn with boredom,” they write.

Hoping to shake off this negative image, Mr. Jadot recently embarked on a tour of France which will take him to fifteen cities by early April. All of the campaign stops were designed to connect with voters, with Mr Jadot addressing them from a small octagonal podium.

Mr Jadot said he wanted to solve “both sides of the equation” by convincing voters that it’s time for real climate action and that it can also bring a better lifestyle, or what he called “a new type of enthusiasm”.

“Acting for the climate means innovating economically, eating well through sustainable and small-scale agriculture,” he said. “Basically, it’s about taking back control of your life.”

In Montpellier, where some 500 people gathered, Mr Jadot’s speech was filled with concrete proposals, including an $11 billion “Marshall Plan” for home insulation to halve energy consumption . He also plans to prohibit the use of dangerous pesticides and to create a new wealth tax reflecting the environmental impact of certain investments.

“Basically, these are very relevant proposals,” said Daphne Destevian, 50, project manager for an offshore renewable energy institute.

But faced with the approach of the candidate, Ms. Destevian remained unmoved. “He yells too much,” she said. “I find him a bit aggressive”

Standing on a podium that resembled a boxing ring, Mr Jadot adopted a combative tone, lambasting the government for signing free trade agreements, attacking French energy giant TotalEnergies and equating Mr. Macron’s pro-nuclear measures right-wing or authoritarian government policies.

Jérémie Peltier, opinion expert at the Jean-Jaurès Foundation research institute, believes that this tone could be detrimental to the Greens. “When you listen to Yannick Jadot, he says, you have the impression that you are constantly being scolded.”

Mr Jadot’s supporters in Montpellier were well aware of the need to convey more optimism, such as the positivity that emanated from the youth climate protests 2019.

Jose Bovelong-time environmental and anti-globalization activist, said “the battle we have to win” is to prove that environmentalism “is a joyful project, which makes people feel good”.

Marie-Noël De Visscher, 70, a former agronomy researcher, said that instead of ‘making people feel guilty’, the Greens needed to show that ‘you can do great things and that taking the train is fun’.

This challenge is particularly acute on the economic front, with the Greens struggling to reconcile the fight against climate change and the fight against economic insecurity. Mr. Jadot is performing poorly with working-class voters, who fear the impact of the clean energy transition on their livelihoods.

Mr Schultz, the sociologist, said the Greens had “focused too much on negative narratives, on punitive narratives” – for example, promoting ideas like limiting the growth of the economy through restrictions on consumption of food and energy.

Standing back from the crowd, long-time green supporter Bruno Cécillon acknowledged that “people are worried” because “they won’t be able to live as peacefully as before, take their car, turn on the heating, put on the air conditioning without back -thought.”

Although the French Greens have gained credentials at the local level – they now control some of France’s biggest cities, including Lyon and Bordeaux, administering the lives of more than two million French people – they are still ongoing at the national level.

Daniel Boy, a political scientist at Science-Po University in Paris, said the Greens were not seen as credible on issues that are the prerogative of a president, such as security or international relations. “Can you imagine an environmentalist talking to Putin? he said, citing voter concern.

By contrast, Boy added, the Greens in Germany are seen as a more competent and pragmatic political party, able to forge coalition agreements with centrist forces and enter the debate on non-environmental issues. Annalena Baerbockthe German Greens’ candidate in last year’s national elections, is now the country’s foreign minister.

Mr. Jadot said he was ready to lead France. “I want to rule this country,” he said. “I want to be responsible.”

But in Montpellier, his supporters already seemed more doubtful.

Mr Cécillon said he would vote for Mr Jadot “not to get him elected – I don’t think he will be elected – but because what interests me is to allow this ecological thinking to weigh”.

“A society doesn’t change like that overnight,” he said. “It takes time, it’s slow.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: French Green Party fails to log on ahead of election
French Green Party fails to log on ahead of election
Newsrust - US Top News
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