In France, presidential candidate builds green platform

PARIS -- As political parties battle it out before the French presidential election, an underdog environmentalist party fights to be heard.
Written by Bryan Pirolli, Correspondent (Paris)

PARIS -- Ecological issues are a major issue for the French presidential election with fewer than 70 days left before the vote.   Green Party candidate Eva Joly has been lagging in the polls, far behind socialist candidate François Hollande and conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy.  With about 3% of voter intention, Joly has still managed to stay in the headlines, though she hasn’t pleased all green-minded voters with her platform.

Joly, 68, is a former investigator who in France is more known for her accented French.  Born in Norway, she moved to France as an au pair in her 20s and eventually acquired French citizenship.  Opponents have openly attacked her for lacking French values, sparking further debate on cultural and national identity.  Other critics, however, feel that many aspects of her campaign have overshadowed environmental issues and that Joly hasn’t upheld a serious vision of the Green Party.

Since 2009, the Independent Ecological Alliance has created its own political party to address what they consider to be more stringent policies towards sustainability and environmental protection. The Alliance is among the ten biggest political parties in France.  Presidential candidate Jean Marc Governatori says that Joly’s Green Party is too in line with the other parties, avoiding more radical stances on the environment.

“We position ourselves beyond the right and left divide because experience shows us that positioning ourselves one side or the other condemns ecology,” Governatori said.  The Independent Ecological Alliance sees the Green Party as a support for the socialist party, even though the two do share different views.

For example, the socialist candidate François Hollande has affirmed that he will only close one of France’s nuclear plants.  Joly, on the other hand, supports ridding France of nuclear energy in the near future and creating jobs through green energy initiatives.  Still, she doesn't hold more radical views on issues like hunting that leave many environmentalists disappointed.

The Alliance considers the Green Party too conventional.  Governatori proposes, for example, converting all farmland to organic agriculture in 15 years, enacting stricter regulations on animal protection and hunting, and banning genetically modified organisms, among a list of other changes.

Governatori, in his campaign, says he insists upon interaction among policies involving agriculture, health, economy, and finance.  According to his party, Joly’s Green Party, like the other traditional parties, blame the country’s problems on financial institutions, banks, CEOs, and government workers.  “For us, each one of us shares a bit of the responsibility in whatever happens,” he said.

Both ecological parties will be fighting to be heard at the end of April as the first round of elections takes place in France, and Governatori is campaigning around France.  He even hosted a vegetarian dinner for couples in Lyon on Valentine’s Day to help drum up support for the party.

“Now it’s time for something concrete.  Let’s move away from verbal ecology and towards an active and complete ecology.  That’s why the Independent Ecological Alliance exists,” he said.

Photos: Le Figaro and Nouvel Observateur

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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