On September 28th, former Greenpeace advocate and Member of European Parliament Yannick Jadot won the presidential primary for ‘Europe Ecologie Les Verts’ (EELV), France’s Green Party.
The primary which took place over the month of September, saw five initial candidates narrowed down to two after the first round of voting. The remaining candidates, Jadot and Sandrine Rousseau, went head-to-head in a tight race which Jadot won with barely fifty-one perent of the vote.
Jadot was considered the more centrist candidate of the two, with the party’s more moderate supporters barely enough to put him above the challenger. His message of an “open, democratic, optimistic” environmentalism has been interpreted by some in contrast with those elements of his party that favour de-growth and state investment.
In the final debate, Jadot argued that environmentalism was “more than the left.” Rousseau pushed for an environmentalism fundamentally tied to economic redistribution. Both pushed for increased social supports, Jadot preferred expanding existing programs, while Rousseau proposed a universal basic income.
Jadot’s politics are similar ideologically to that of ‘Parti Socialiste’ candidate and mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo. In the last French presidential election, the Greens did not field a candidate, and encouraged people to vote for the Socialists. Differentiating themselves will be a key issue for the Greens in the lead up to the 2022 election. It is not clear that Rousseau would have avoided this issue either, as the Greens under her leadership might have resembled Jean-Luc Melenchon’s far-left La France Insoumise. Jadot currently trails Melenchon in the polls, and is neck-and-neck with Hidalgo.
Jadot faces the challenge of uniting an ideologically diverse party, and appealing to the half of party membership that did not vote for him – before he can focus on appealing to the French voter. Rousseau congratulated Jadot on his victory, taking to Twitter to say that they were “determined, together, to win an environmental politics.”
The new leader also thanked Rousseau and the other candidates for their contributions to debate within the party. In his victory speech, he spoke of the urgency of action on the climate, and optimistically of the French Greens’ future: “The next mandate will be one of action to regain control of our lives. With you – thanks to you – I will be the President for the climate.” The first round of the 2022 French presidential election will begin on Sunday, April 10th.