The Vote For Europe: Danny the Green goes back to roots

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The Independent Online
HE BOUNDS on to the stage like an ageing rock star on his 100th comeback tour. In truth, explains Daniel Cohn-Bendit, this is his first true comeback. It is his first political rally in Paris since he was deported by President Charles de Gaulle in May 1968.

Danny the Red, the young French-born German who led the cataclysmic French student uprising that month, has become Danny the Green, and now also Danny the blue-and-yellow. For the past six months, he has toured France as a German Green Euro-MP leading the French Green campaign.

As passionate, as funny, as much a troublemaker as ever, Cohn-Bendit, 50, has been the most aggressively pro- federalist politician of the 1999 European elections. Who else would talk of the need to build an "orgasmic Europe"? Who else could combine fervent support for Nato's war in Yugoslavia with demands for the legalisation of soft drugs and the distinctly unleftish support for commercial deregulation and the lifting of trade barriers?

Danny, perhaps for sentimental reasons, saved Paris until last. More than 4,000 people - probably the biggest Green rally in France - turned up this week to see him perform at Le Zenith, which doubles as a political and rock venue.

Born and raised in France, but always a German national, Cohn-Bendit is a rare political animal and a true Euro- politician. On Sunday, he will become the first person elected to the European Parliament from two different countries.

He told the Zenith rally that his leading rivals in the French Euro- campaign were "imposters", interested not in Europe but in scoring points on the national political scoreboard. He was right, of course, but the same thing could be said of the Greens.

The French poll battle - between 20 nationwide "lists" of candidates - has not been a clash between left and right. Instead, the struggles have been within the left and right. The aim has been to improve one's standing against one's allies and friends - or ex-friends - rather than to beat the enemy.

On the left, there was never a doubt that the Socialists would come first, consolidating their position as the dominant force in the pink-red-green coalition government in Paris. But it matters greatly to the pecking order within that coalition - and to its stability - how the other main parties, the Communists and Greens, perform.

Although opinion polls are confusing, it seems likely that the Cohn-Bendit- led Greens (with a predicted 7 to 10 per cent of the overall vote) will depose the Communists (with a forecast 7.5 to 9 per cent) as the second force on the French left.

Such a result would be a further damaging blow to the French Communists, long in decline. It would embitter relations within the ruling coalition and could persuade the party that it should, for survival's sake, leave the cares of government and return to the simplicities of opposition.

A record low turn-out is forecast of about 47 per cent. Judging by the fervour of Green supporters at Le Zenith, this should work in Cohn- Bendit's favour. In 1968, he almost brought down a French government he passionately opposed. In 1999, he could cause serious problems for another French administration to which he is nominally allied.