French Local Elections Characterized As A “Green Tsunami”

Anne Hidalgo after being elected to another term as Paris mayor           Photo: AFP

By Julia Fine, ODP Contributing Writer

This past Sunday, France rode the green wave (or, as some of the French media has dubbed it, the green tsunami) as the country’s green party– Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV)– and its allies won big in major cities such as Lyon, Strasbourg, and Bordeaux. As Alice Tidey reported in Euro News, President Macron’s centrist party received a (very expected) major blow as it captured no major cities.

Critically, Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist mayor of Paris who is supported by the green party and Communists, continued her hold of the capital city. Kim Willsher reported in The Guardian that Hidalgo, in response to her re-election, said, “voters had chosen to make Paris more ‘ecological, social, and humanist.’”

Why This Matters: The local election has already pushed Macron to act on environmental issues. A day after the election, Macron pledged over 15 billion euros of funding to “speed up moves to a greener economy,” the European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy reported. Many view this election as a turning point for environmentalism in France and Europe writ large. However, it remains to be seen if and how the EELV will make the most of this momentum.  It also remains to be seen whether the European green wave will roll across to this side of the Atlantic.

The Green Wave and Yellow Vests

The local election comes almost two years after the beginning of the Yellow Vests movement, a grassroots movement for economic justice that was catalyzed by Macron’s propose fuel-tax hike meant, in part, to fund measures to fight climate change. As we reported last year, the two movements are not necessarily in opposition, as both are committed to fighting for social justice, particularly for those marginalized in French society. And yet, Sunday’s election results do confirm the large division between the urban and the rural in France. As sociologist Vincent Tiberj told France Info radio (paraphrased by Euro News), the EELV will “have to win over more skeptical groups such as blue-collar workers and those finding it hard to make ends meet.

Widespread Disillusionment

Another caveat to the success of the EELV is the poor turnout of the election, thought to be due to both the pandemic as well as broader disillusionment with French politics. According to Euro News, only 4 out of 10 people voting, making it “harder to draw conclusions concerning the national picture in the long-term.” Macron himself has expressed his concern over the low turnout.

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