Green wave surges across France as voters back planet first politics

So many hoped had for it after successes at the European elections. But when a the green wave of intent smashed onto the political foreshore of France on Sunday night, it caused much more than a ripple.

The scale of progress delivered for the Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV) was unprecedented.

There were significant results from elections as the Greens made huge gains across the country. It Included breakthrough wins in major cities including Bordeaux, Lyon, Strasbourg, Grenoble, Besançon, Poitiers, Annecy and Tours.

They narrowly missed out on Lille in a neck and neck contest, but also helped return the social mayor current mayor Anne Hidalgo in Paris after she ran on an environmental agenda. Marseille is on the brink too. List led pacts are also being formed in the likes of Nancy and Le Mans.

The election, however, was run against a record poor turnout by French standards – just around 40%. – with COVID-19 precautions at polling stations.

But even that could’t take away from the significance of what had happened.

It heaps pressure on the French President Emmanuel Macron to deliver on promises of a climate led agenda for the presidential elections in 2022. Should he fails, if these local elections do anything, it puts him on notice that the electorate are tired of waiting.

And now, buoyed. Buoyed by a belief that change can come.

Already the much vaunted Paris Agreement first adopted in 2015 and signed in November 2016 is looking not just a distant memory, but a false dawn. It’s successor Glasgow meanwhile, still paralysed by COVID-19. Time is running out and voters – including young and first time voters, are finding their voice.

It is the one thing politicians of this era across the world fear the most no doubt. A new generation of electorate tired of the middle-to-retirement age mostly white-middle-class politics that have spewed out untold damage on generations finally being able to do something about it.

Macron reacted to Monday’s tally by announcing €15 million additional spending to transition to a cleaner economy.

The climate challenge demands that we do more,” he said. The Financial Times reported his pledge on what it described as a “humiliating” defeat for the president.

This perhaps wasn’t so much progressive politics but sudden panic from those recognising that the game is up, their bubble has burst.

The Irish Times in an editorial, noteworthy given they are now the UK’s closest relation in Europe, still think Macron v Le Pen will be the main dogfight for the presidentials. But there is so much that can happen between now and then, not least with the very real prospect of yet another very damaging COVID-19 lockdown and its impacts to come.

Journalist Jessica Corbett, staff writer with Common Dreams, wrote of how Yannick Jadot, from the Europe Écologie Les Verts, said: “It’s an incredible green wave.”

She wasn’t alone in that assessment.

According to Euronews, one of the world’s biggest news organisations, the result is no flash in the pan. It suggest the results means that “The greens have established themselves as a major political opposition force in France.”

Suddenly, leftists in France are allowed to dream again”, was how France24 put it, adding: “Never had France’s greens known such success at the municipal ballot box.”

Christophe Leclercq’s EURACTIV were equally ebullient, their headline ‘Greens Surge in French Local Elections‘.

It added: “The weak performance of Macron’s La Republique en Marche will prompt much soul-searching for the president, who in the run-up to the vote said he wanted to reinvent his presidency with two years left in his mandate.”

The politics won’t end there. In every defeat the loser usually tries to shift the blame, so what happens next with Macron and his Prime Minister Édouard Philippe may prove a key indicator in just how real the threat from a rejuvenated left might be.

For now, on the left and wrapped in green, the dream is very much alive.

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