French Greens left without candidate for presidential race

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The Independent Online

The French Green party has dumped its candidate for next year's presidential election, but has now been left without an obvious replacement.

On Saturday night, 64.4 per cent of Greens voted to withdraw their endorsement from Alain Lipietz, who has had one of the most the disastrous and short-lived campaigns on record. In the space of four months since his selection as the candidate in June, Mr Lipietz, 54, a former Maoist economics professor, has reduced Green support in opinion polls from 10 per cent to 3 per cent. He was struggling to assemble the 500 signatures of elected officials that candidates need to place themselves on the ballot sheet for the first round of the presidential election next April.

The problem for "Les Verts" – who became the second largest French party left in the European elections two years ago – is that no senior Green is willing to take Mr Lipietz's place.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the leader of the 1968 student uprising – who ran a brilliant European campaign for the French Greens two years ago – cannot run because he is a German citizen. The party leader and former environment minister, Dominique Voynet, insists that she will not run. So does her long-time rival, Noël Mamère, the man defeated by Mr Lipietz in the Green "primary" in June.

In an interview with the newspaper Le Monde at the weekend, Mr Mamère accused Ms Voynet of conspiring behind his back earlier this year to defeat him in the "primary". He said he had now taken an "irrevocable" decision not to stand.

The squabble has repercussions beyond the personal animosities and ambitions of the Greens. The main French ecological party is an important part of the governing coalition of the Socialist Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin.

Mr Jospin needs a large "Green" score in the first round of the presidential election if he is to assemble enough left, green and centrist votes to defeat President Jacques Chirac in the second round.