By Ingrid Melander
PARIS -Former Greenpeace executive Yannick Jadot beat a more radical opponent on Tuesday to become the French Greens’ candidate for president next year, potentially boosting their chances of reaching out beyond their traditional base.
The 54-year-old EU lawmaker worked for non-governmental organisations in Burkina Faso and Bangladesh before leading environment-focused NGOs including the French branch of Greenpeace, and becoming increasingly involved in politics.
He wants France to devote 20 billion euros ($23 billion) a year to a shift to a more environment-friendly economy, and also to phase out intensive animal farming and introduce a wealth tax.
The French Greens lack the firepower of their German counterparts and no opinion poll sees Jadot, who currently polls around 6%, as a serious challenger to President Emmanuel Macron.
But the question is whether the self-styled consensus builder could emerge as a leader of France’s fragmented left.
After being appointed in an online vote, Jadot said he wanted to “go all the way to the Elysee (Palace), to parliament, in order to govern differently, in the service of the citizens”.
Opinion polls put Jadot broadly level with the Socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, on 6-7%, behind their main left-wing rival, the far-left Jean-Luc Melenchon.
That compares with at least 23-26% for Macron, who is forecast to be narrowly ahead of far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the first round, and beat her in a runoff.
Either Hidalgo or Jadot could in theory urge other candidates to step aside in the hope of uniting the left-wing vote.
But the prospect of such a pact currently seems remote, and even if it happened, the chance that it would secure second place, and so qualify for the runoff, looks even slimmer from recent surveys.
However, the campaign has already thrown up surprises – not least a potential challenge by talk-show star Eric Zemmour, who is even farther to the right than Le Pen.
Over 120,000 people had registered to pick the Greens’ candidate in an online vote open to all.
Jadot won 51.03% of the votes against 48.97% for Sandrine Rousseau, an economist who advocated a “radical shift” across the board to tackle not only climate change but also boost public healthcare and education.