Green wave as environmentalists win key cities in French local elections
A green wave has swept France as the environmentalist party and its left-wing allies won control of major cities including Lyon, Strasbourg and Bordeaux in local elections, allowing the Greens to up pressure on President Emmanuel Macron for his meeting with members of the Citizen's Convention on Climate on Monday.
Europe Ecology, The Greens party (EELV) took control of key cities including Lyon, Bordeaux and Strasbourg.
They also won the smaller cities of Besancon, Tours, Poitiers and Annecy, hung on to Grenoble and became a power-broker in Marseille.
Having endorsed the Paris socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo, the Greens also played an important role in ensuring her re-election with 48.7 percent of the vote.
EELV described the results as "historic".
"Today, ecology is taking a big step. A giant step," the party's secretary Julien Bayou said in a statement, adding that "it is THE mandate to act on climate and social justice," echoing a tweet by Green MEPs.
"The French are ready for change. Great, so are we," he said.
The election was marked by record-high abstention rate of 59 percent.
President Macron expressed his concern and acknowledged that the elections were marked by a “green wave”, the presidency said.
Upping the pressure
Green MEP Yannick Jadot said the results proved that Macron had been “in denial” over growing public demand for ambitious measures to fight climate change.
He told Europe 1 radio EELV would not join Macron's government as part of a widely-expected cabinet shake-up, saying instead the president should enact “as he promised” 149 measures proposed this month by his Citizen's Convention on Climate.
Macron is to meet the council's members on Monday where he plans a "first response" to their proposals, including reducing motorway speed limits and making "ecocide" a crime.
The Covid effect
Jadot described EELV's strong results as a “political turning point for our country,” with a landscape “recomposed around ecology”.
In an interview with Le Monde he attributed the party's good performance both to “the government's powerlessness and lack of options [proposed] on ecological and social issues, and the vertical nature of its governance".
The run-off local poll had been delayed by three months due to the two-month lockdown imposed in France.
While the record high abstention rate was in part due to fears over transmission of the coronavirus, the lockdown itself may also explain the Greens' good score.
For him, a lot of discussion centred around "questions of lifestyle and consumer habits which are putting our ecosystems under strain".
"Lockdown acted as an accelerator," he said "with people asking for more localism and a slowdown in the frenzy of consumerism. The lockdown period reinforced EELV themes.”