This 22 April and 6 May, the French arrive at a major political moment for their country, the election of the president of the republic. Who will move into the Elysee Palace after the second round? Once occupied by General De Gaulle and George Pompidou, it is quite a prize. Eva Joly is the green party candidate, of Europe Ecologie/Les Verts. She was chosen overwhelmingly by her peers to lead the battle.
Before her astonishing career path led her to politics, in the 1990s this Norwegian-born French woman was a redoubtable magistrate. And yet, Audrey Tilve, who spent time following the Joly campaign, reports that, although described as a woman of character and legendary integrity, Eva Joly has difficulty seducing French voters.
A few remarks about French presidential candidate Eva Joly, from different people interviewed at random:
“I find Eva Joly is outgoing and courageous.”
“I don’t find her unpleasant.”
(Journalist’s question: “Do you think she’d make a good president?”)
“She got into politics what, three years ago, so it’ll be hard, ‘cause she’s up against people with teeth as long as this!”
From Eva Joly herself: “Being observed the whole day, obviously it’s heavy. Sometimes I might be in a bad mood and I bite a bit, but not too much.”
Eva Joly, age 68, is a member of the European Parliament. She has been in the Green group since 2009. But the French remember her more as an anti-corruption magistrate, the one who went up against oil giant Elf, against both bosses and politicians.
euronews accompanied her on the campaign trail to Roubaix, the city said to be the poorest in all of France, a symbol of deindustrialisation and delocalisations. Here, she met the owner of an old bistrot who refused to be moved from a now barren neighbourhood.
Eva Joly insists that a transformation to a green economy can change things, creating a million jobs in France.
Joly said: “The crisis makes a lot of people think that our ecology is less important. My job is to explain that ecology is the foremost solution to the crisis, the solution to the employment problem and purchasing power and health.”
Opinion surveys attribute around just three percent of voters’ intentions to Joly. If there has been a distortion of her image, as she is convinced there has been, she lays the fault with media commentators who have railed against her thoroughness, or her proposals, such as not to have a military parade on the nation’s birthday. But her campaign director Stéphane Sitbon-Gomez said her drawbacks are also her strength.
“She has her own style, which isn’t necessarily conventional, standard. This sometimes takes people by surprise when they’re expecting a classic speech from a political podium. That’s what brings change.”
When she presented her programme, she tackled Nicolas Sarkozy.
Joly said: “When one has been president for five years, one bears responsibility. He dismantled schools and the justice system, he dismantled hospitals. He took responsibility giving gifts to his friends, the rich.”
She also announced a great battle against nuclear power. She wants France to phase it out within 20 years.
Joly said: “There have been three major accidents in the past 30 years, which means we cannot take the risk.”
Joly accepted a pact between her party and the Socialists, which some see as a poisoned chalice. This alliance could mean Green sympathisers will just vote Socialist from the first round, hoping to make their vote count against the far right.
David Mbanza, a member of the Regional Council of Ile-de-France, said: “It’s all very well to say our goals make us close to the Socialists, but the Socialists work pretty much like Sarkozy’s UMP. It’s an old model.”
Young mother Hélène Hebert said: “It’s going to be hard to choose between voting usefully and voting from the heart.”
Joly is determined to carry on with her campaign, with others of the left elbow to elbow. Yet, while she said she is resolutely European and a federalist, she is not in favour of a Europe of austerity.
Joly said: “Of course I am going against the flow of an ultra-liberal dominance in the countries that make up the European Union today, and which has brought us to the impasse we’re in now. It’s over.”