parPar Catherine Lagrange
LYON, France (Reuters) – The coronavirus lockdown has convinced retired speech-language pathologist Anne-Marie Arnaud of a brighter future, with clearer skies, cooler air and quieter streets cleared of deadly diesel cars.
Thus, the retired Lyonnaise changed her vote in the municipal elections last Sunday, among the first in the world to be held after the countries began to come out of isolation, in favor of the Green party.
The results, which saw the Greens take control or become an alliance partner in as many as 11 town halls, could indicate a wider shift in voting patterns as governments, businesses and citizens adapt in the COVID-19 era.
“I realized how clean the air was, how nice it was to walk around a city and be woken up by the song of birds rather than the horns,” said Arnaud, 64. “I told myself that there was good in this crisis and that we had to rethink our city in a different way”.
Admittedly, support for the party officially known as European Ecology – The Greens (EELV) was already increasing.
With no legislators in the French Parliament and only four employees at the Paris headquarters, the Green Party fared better than expected in last year’s European Parliament elections, ranking third with 13.5% of the vote.
In the past two years, they have also grown elsewhere in Europe.
In Germany, the Greens are the second most popular political party, although they fell in the background during the pandemic, while they are junior partners in the new Irish coalition government, as well as in Austria.
But the pandemic forces us to rethink the way we live: from the future of global supply chains to the way we work in offices, the way we plan our cities for the food we eat,
“It played a role,” Julien Bayou, leader of the Greens in France, told Reuters about the success of his party in the elections.
In Lyon, the Greens candidate, Gregory Doucet, won 52.4% of the vote on Sunday, fighting against the control of Gérard Collomb, the veteran socialist mayor of the third city of France, who represented the ruling party of President Emmanuel Macron .
He did so on a campaign platform to create a 450-kilometer network of cycle highways, widen sidewalks for pedestrians, 50% locally sourced school food and build more social housing.
From Bordeaux in the southwest to Strasbourg in the east, the green wave of Sunday engulfed the big and small cities of France. Also in Paris, they joined forces with the re-elected socialist president on a promise to reduce pollution.
In Lyon, Doucet campaign manager Ninon Guinel said that the coronavirus crisis had revealed the fragility of Western economies and the need to untangle the excesses of globalization.
“People realized that the system was at the breaking point,” she said.
(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Pineau and Richard Lough in Paris; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)