The Green Party of France, Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV), poor in the regional elections that took place on the 20th to the 27th of June 2021. This may come as a shock, as the Greens joined an extensive left wing coalition in an attempt to prevent right wing incumbents from dominating in northern France. The failing success of the EELV has been attributed to its increasing radicalism and subsequent drifting from traditional values of the French Republic.
The Recent Extremism of the EELV:
On September 9th of 2020, Green mayor of Lyon, Gregory Doucet, labelled the French-famous Tour de France as sexist and environmentally dangerous. In a conference he described the cycling event as promoting “machoism” because there was not a female event that was on par with the Tour de France. In September of 2020 he announced: “When you support sporting values, you support gender equality.”. Moreover, he expressed concern for the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions released during the cycling event, as hundreds of vehicles accompany the cyclists for the 3,414.4 km race course.
However, Gregoire Doucet is not the only Green leader to express discern about French traditions. French Green’s mayor of Bordeaux, took unprecedented measure’s in September 2020 when he announced that the annual Christmas tree would not be set up in the city of Bordeaux. He backed his decision by arguing that “dead trees in the city squares” do not align with his policy of re-vegetation.
Amid the ongoing threats to traditional republican values, one of the most controversial issues has been the mitigation of growing sentiments of Islamophobia in France. Ongoing terrorist attacks since 2015 have prompted President Emmanuel Marcon’s centre-right government to yield what he has labelled the “exponential radicalism” of Islam in France.
President Marcon responded to the ongoing terrorist attacks by proposing an anti-extremism bill to the Parliament on February 16th, 2021. After months of debate, the bill was approved by the National Assembly on July 23rd, 2021. The anti-extremism act or anti-separatism act aims to promote Islamic separatism through an increased emphasis on French secular values. The state now wields the authority to ban places of worship and extreme preachers.
Following the proposition and subsequent overwhelming support for the bill in Parliament, an official in the President’s office clarified to the news outlet, ‘FP’; that the bill “is not against Islam. It is against people who in the name of a wrong or reconstructed vision of a religion behave in a way contrary to the Republic.”
However, the bill’s direct violation of the right to religious freedom outlined in the 1798 French Declaration of the Rights of Man, has sparked domestic raids at home and condemnation overseas. The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has accused Emmanuel Marcon of needing “mental treatment” in light of his insensitive remarks of Islam, his anti-extremism act and the subsequent temporary closure of a mosque in Paris on October 20th, 2020.
The French Greens Support of Religious Freedom:
The French Greens have contradicted Marcon’s desire to protect republican traditionalism in their explicit support of the French-Muslim national community. On March 22 2021, the Green led city council of Strasbourg approved state funding for a $3 million mosque for a Turkish-Muslim association, Milli Gorus Islamic Confederation (CMIG). The Eyyub Sultan mosque is set out to be the biggest mosque in Europe. On January 20th, 2021 the CMIG, along with three other Muslim groups in France, announced their refusal to sign the anti-extremism charter and condemned the government for “undermining the honour of Muslims, with an accusatory and marginalizing character,” .
The subsidy agreement between the Strasbourg Greens and the CMIG has sparked anger from the government. Marcon has been explicit in his distain for Ankara’s increasing influence and alleged affiliated Islamic radicalism within the Republic. However, the defeat of the EELV in the recent regional elections seemingly reflects an electorate that desire’s a stronghold of republican values in France.
The 2021 Regional Election Results:
The centrist-right parties were able to accumulate the most gains in the second round of the regional elections on June 27th, securing majorities in seven out of the thirteen regions. Although President Marcon’s party, ‘La Republique en Marche!’ won in no regions. The EELV hoped to win in the Loire and Persian mayoral regions however, right wing incumbents maintained power in these mayoral districts.
The results of this election reflect an uncomfortable reality: the successful candidates that represent centrist right parties also voted in favour of Marcon’s controversial Islamic separatism bill. Moreover, the increased “radicalism” of the French Greens in recent years has translated to low voter support for the progressive party.
Although there are about six million Muslim citizens in France, the outcome of the 2022 French Presidential elections will shed light on the status of religious freedom in France.