Saturday, December 23, 2006

Hulot overshadows Greens

There is no doubt that the wildlife star Nicolas Hulot has had an incredible influence on French politics. After all, the two leading presidential contenders have each signed his environmental pact to win votes and prevent a Hulot candidacy. But the attention Hulot is receiving is having an unintended side effect: he is completely overshadowing the traditional green parties.

Since launching his pact in November, he has overshadowed France's main environmentalist party, the Greens, and their candidate Dominique Voynet, who polls show has the support of around 1-2 percent of voters, to Hulot's roughly 10 percent.
"The Greens have been robbed," said Daniel Boy, research director at Sciences-Po university.
"They feel that the environment has been stolen from them."
After polls suggested Hulot was far more popular, Greens veteran Voynet, who has helped mould her party into a left-wing movement, asked Hulot in an open letter to join forces with her.
But he rejected his former ally's advances.
"You chose politics, I chose another path," he said in left-wing daily Liberation.
"What I am doing is neither on the right nor on the left, or even in the centre," he added.


French daily Le Parisien asked: "What use are (other) environmentalists?" and said a wave of "Hulotmania" had swept across France.

But Hulot should not overestimate his hand. The article notes that despite strong support for the environoment in France, the Green Party has been unsuccessful in capitalizing on that in the ballot box.

We always have difficulty, and have done since the Greens were founded, getting people's sympathy for our proposals to equate to sufficient credibility for voters to place a Greens ballot in the box," he added.
For all the public interest in his bid to put the environment at the centre of French politics, Hulot too may fail to transform sympathy into political clout.
"When you ask people what the biggest problem is today, it's far from being the main issue. It might rise but it is still far behind. It is still unemployment, security, purchasing power," Sciences-Po's Boy said.

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