Greens’ illusions include political Islam, war for democracy

Is this phenomenon the beginning of a lasting trend in French political life or a simple and temporary mood swing of French voters, like many other mood swings in France’s modern history?
Thursday 02/07/2020
Newly elected mayor of Bordeaux, EELV green party’s Pierre Hurmic (C), takes part in a meeting with members of his campaign team on June 29, in Bordeaux, southwestern France. (AP)
Newly elected mayor of Bordeaux, EELV green party’s Pierre Hurmic (C), takes part in a meeting with members of his campaign team on June 29, in Bordeaux, southwestern France. (AP)

The second round of municipal elections held on Sunday, June 28, gave birth to a huge surprise: the victory of the Greens, who now control some of France’s largest cities: Lyon, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Tours, Annecy, Besançon, Poitiers, and also Colombes and Savigny-sur-Orge.

In Lyon, the Greens (EELV) have managed to score a double hit by placing two of its representatives, Gregory Doucet and Bruno Bernard, virtually unknown to the general public, at the town hall and at the capital.

In Grenoble, the first large city in France to be headed by an environmental mayor, voters elected to renew their trust in the incumbent mayor. In Marseille, the second largest French metropolis, the Greens’ candidate certainly managed to come on top of the polls but, due to a complex voting system, she will have to wait for the results of a third round on Saturday July 4 to be fixed on the identity of the new mayor. Whoever the new mayor will be, managing the affairs of this important metropolis could only be chaotic.

Certainly this second round, held on June 28, three and a half months after the first round held in more than questionable conditions on March 15 smack in the middle of the peak of COVID-19 pandemic, served to only confirm and amplify the green push registered in major cities.

Is this phenomenon then the beginning of a lasting trend in French political life or a simple and temporary mood swing of French voters, like many other mood swings in France’s modern history?

Environmental activists demonstrate outside the french Economy Ministry, June 30, in Paris. (AFP)
Environmental activists demonstrate outside the french Economy Ministry, June 30, in Paris. (AFP)

It was certainly the case of the ephemeral Poujadism, a populist, chauvinist, anti-European, and corporatist protest movement that flourished in 1952 and died out with the advent of the Fifth Republic. In the 1956 elections, the movement garnered over 2 million votes and grabbed 52 seats in parliament (12%) representing all regions of France.

This new breakthrough in the municipal elections by the environmentalists, led by the Europe Ecology-The Greens (EELV) movement, came almost one year after their breakthrough in the European elections of May 2019, where they were able to come third with 13.47% of the votes against 23.31% of Marine le Pen’s far right National Rally, followed closely by Macron’s list, supported by La République en Marche (22.41%).

However, one has to put this victory in perspective, without of course underestimating its significance. After all, we’re talking here about just a municipal consultation which took place in abnormal conditions, practically without real campaigns being conducted due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic measures. Sixty percent of eligible voters chose to abstain, which is a record in the history of the Fifth Republic. An elections expert told political website Mediapart tongue-in-cheek: “The wave is green, and on the left, but the beach is deserted.”

Like all waves, this one is destined to die out, because apart from their spectacular conquest of the most important cities in France, the Greens and other environmentalists remain a minority in the French electorate.

Ecology and defending the environment are no longer issues touted only by environmental parties. By adopting, the day after his party’s defeat in the municipal elections, 146 out of the 149 ecological proposals formulated a year ago by the Citizen’s Climate Convention, a citizens’ forum created after the revolt of the Yellow Vests (Gilets Jaunes), Macron sought, through political expediency, to present himself as the true protector of the climate and the environment.

On top of this, the leaders of the green wave turn out often to be from affluent urban classes, and often adopt a “punitive” approach to ecology, by imposing more taxes to finance the transition to clean energy, which sooner or later will drive the rural and peripheral classes away from them. They do not seem to have understood the lessons of the revolt of the Yellow Vests, a revolt that just happened because the government decided on new carbon taxes.

Reacting to this green tidal wave, Yannick Jadot, head of the EELV list, expressed his wish for “an alternative to liberal technocracy and populism.” Easier said than done, especially since this wish is common to all other parties, including the National Rally. The Greens say they are against “liberal technocracy” without rejecting liberal economy. They are against the chauvinists and claim to be in favour of a model of globalisation which they describe as “humanit.”  They say they are against wars but support, in the name of a certain misguided idea of ​​democracy and human rights, interference in the affairs of others and of the “right of humanitarian interference.”  Their bleary-eyed advocacy of democracy in the Arab region has laid the ground in many ways for the illusions of the “Arab spring.” But do not count on the Greens to acknowledge they were wrong.

In the name of this same ideology, and in the name of the fight against what they call Islamophobia, racism and anti-Semitism, they are willing to make deals with political Islam and with what Macron called “identity and Islamic separatism” that he says he wants to fight but refuses to give himself the means to do so.

Finally, given the oversized egos of the tenors of this so-called ecological current, we will have to expect dissensions or even repeated splits which will, eventually, prevent them from becoming a real party of power, especially since they owe their electoral push only to their tactical alliance with the splinters of the broken Socialist Party and to alliances of circumstance with “rejectionist” forces ready to ally with the devil if necessary to oppose what they call the system, be it by the left or by the right.