Norwegian beauty queen begins a new life as face of France's green party

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The Independent Online

Eva Joly is about to complete one of the most extraordinary CVs in world politics. At the age of 18, she was a Norwegian beauty queen. At 20, she was an au pair in France. At 37, she was a feared French investigative magistrate.

Today, at the age of 67, she will be elected candidate for the Green-Europe Ecology party in next year's French presidential election. To the delight of some French ecologists and the dismay of others, she will become the first person with dual nationality to run for the presidency.

Ms Joly, who became a successful magistrate investigating political and business corruption in France in the 1990s, will claim another high-profile scalp today. The primary election for the recently expanded Green party was supposed to have been a coronation march for the handsome, charismatic TV presenter and ecological campaigner Nicolas Hulot, 56.

Instead, the much leaked second- round results to be announced this afternoon will show a 60-40 per cent victory for a small, blonde woman with a Norwegian accent.

Ms Joly trounced Mr Hulot partly because she ran a tougher, more focused campaign, close to the left-leaning, anti-establishment views of members of the old French green party, "Les Verts".

Mr Hulot had been touted as the candidate to help the Greens break out of their militant ecological ghetto. But he was rejected by a majority of members of the Green-Europe Ecology party – and massively by the original "Verts" – because he preached a consensual, non-confrontational approach to environmental problems.

"The ecological party has decided to deprive itself of a candidate who symbolises the environment to millions of French people," the Green Euro-MP Jean-Paul Besset said yesterday. "It's called shooting yourself in the foot."

Having re-invented herself so many times, Ms Joly must now prove that she can re-construct herself, once again, as a politician. The signs are not good. Ms Joly tends to lecture her audiences in a droning monotone. She treats TV interviewers as if they were defendants in a legal investigation. She seems to be personally engaged only when she can link ecological issues to her own area of expertise: the fight against corruption in high places.

But, given her CV, it would be foolish to write off Ms Joly's chances of expanding the green vote beyond its core of 5 to 6 per cent in the first round of the presidential elections next April. After travelling to France as an au pair in 1963, she married the eldest son of her host family, despite their opposition. As her husband, Pascal Joly, rose to be a senior surgeon, Ms Joly had two children and worked as a secretary while studying at night to become a lawyer and then a magistrate.

She may be controversial, but she has proved herself formidable.