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French Greens in surprise surge as climate crisis grips voters

Stéphane de Sakutin, AFP | Head candidate of the Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV) green list Yannick Jadot reacts after the announcement of initial results during an EELV election-night event for European parliamentary elections on May 26, 2019.

France's Green Party saw a surprising surge in support in Sunday's European elections, echoing strong gains made by ecologist parties in Germany and Ireland, and hailed a "green wave" they said was sweeping the European Union.

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Three exit polls put the French Greens, Europe Écologie Les Verts -- officially known as the European Ecologists and the Greens -- in third place behind the far-right and President Emmanuel Macron's centrist party, winning more than 13% of the vote.
 
If the projections are confirmed, the Green Party will have trounced the mainstream centre-right and centre-left parties, which have failed to recover from Macron's redrawing of the political landscape in the 2017 presidential vote.

"We are witnessing a green European wave tonight that we are part of," Yannick Jadot, leader of the French greens, told supporters. "The French sent us a clear message: They want ecology to be at the heart of our lives."

“One of the big stories that we’re already seeing being painted here tonight is the so-called ‘Green Wave’,” said FRANCE 24’s Dave Keating, reporting from Brussels.

“The Greens also did really well in Germany and other European countries.”

“According to initial projections, they’re putting the Greens at fourth place where they would theoretically have the same number of seats as the populist bloc that Marine Le Pen is trying to form with [Italian Prime Minister] Matteo Salvini – if that bloc ever does get formed,” Keating added.

The Greens across the EU are expected to hold up to 70 seats in the 751-seat European Parliament, giving them significant clout.

Macron has reached out to Green parties across the bloc as he seeks to construct a centrist alliance that he hopes will play a "kingmaker" role in the assembly, where no single group will have a majority.

School strikes built momentum

Momentum for the Green surge had been building up over months as the strikes started last November by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, 16, caught the imagination of youth across the world.

In a major mobilisation on Friday, tens of thousands of students rallied, with some calling on their parents to tick the box for the environment at European polls this week.

Macron had made the environment a cornerstone of his campaign. He put the former head of WWF France, Pascal Canfin, a longtime Green Party member, number 2 on his list, announced the formation of a European climate bank and cancelled a controversial South American gold mining project, sparking accusations from the Green Party that he was poaching their voters.

France's Prime Minister Édouard Philippe acknowledged the "message about the ecological emergency".

"Everywhere in Europe, our citizens and in particular the youngest are asking us to act with determination and that's what we'll do in France and in Europe," he said.

An Elabe exit poll showed the French Greens obtaining 13 seats in the European Parliament. 

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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