French Greens see red at ex-Maoist candidate

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The Independent Online

The official Green candidate may be about to break the record for the shortest French presidential campaign.

Alain Lipietz, who was chosen in June to fight next year's election, has proved so disastrous that all the leading figures (other than himself) in an endlessly quarrelsome party have united to dump him. Mr Lipietz, 54, was abandoned this week by Jean-François Collin, his own campaign manager, who complained that Mr Lipietz "listened to nothing and nobody".

He has also, implicitly, been cut loose by the most influential figure in the party, the former environment minister Dominique Voynet. So beleaguered has he become that Mr Lipietz has turned off his mobile phone and disconnected his answering machine.

His problems began in July when he called for an amnesty for all politically motivated crimes in Corsica, including the – as yet unsolved – murder of the Prefect (chief central government official) in 1998. Moderate Greens were appalled and even more horrified when the party became embroiled in a lengthy dispute over such a non-Green and politically destructive issue.

The candidate's position was further weakened last month by the disclosure that he had helped a pro-violence nationalist splinter-group in Corsica with its manifesto and had addressed a meeting of one of the political fronts of the Basque terrorist organisation, Eta.

The Green score in opinion polls slipped from double figures to 5 or 6 per cent. Mr Lipietz, a former Maoist activist and Marxist economics professor who switched to ecological politics in the late 1980s, offered this week to submit himself once again to a vote of the party's membership.

Leading officials in the party complained, though, that this was meant to complicate rather than resolve the position. Mr Lipietz still has a considerable following among grassroots members, and they – as Mr Lipietz knows – are likely to re-elect him as the candidate to spite the party leadership.

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