or biological diversity are treated as technical and sociopolitical problems.
Despite heightened international concern over the environment, the impact of green politics in France has been limited by chronic internal divisions.
The origins of French political ecology lie in the 'new social movements' of the late 1960s, particularly environmentalism, anti-nuclear protest, pacifism and feminism. Unresolved tensions within the green movement over appropriate forms of activism-be it through direct action, associations, pressure groups or mainstream politics-have resulted in ambivalent strategies. Structured political parties emerged late. Of the two main parties, the Verts (the Greens) was formed in 1984, and Génération Écologie (GE) in 1990. The former retains strong elements of grassroots democracy and has a radical platform (opposition to French nuclear power, to the rush for economic growth, to collaboration with the parties of government, advocacy of cancelling Third World debt). The latter is centralized, focused on its founder, Brice Lalonde, reformist in orientation and accepts civil uses of nuclear power (Lalonde was Environment Minister under the Socialists during 1989-92). However, both parties agree on the need for global environmental strategies, more work-sharing and a deepening of democracy.
Despite the greening of the French public as measured by opinion surveys, between 1974 and 1988 no single ecology party or candidate polled 5 per cent in a major election. The breakthrough came in the 1989 European elections (with 10.6 per cent of votes, the Verts returned nine MEPs), followed by success in the 1992 regional elections, where ecology parties attracted nearly 15 per cent of voters. In both years, ecologists benefited from the popularity of environmental issues and proportional representation. But the 1993 parliamentary elections (only 7.6 per cent of votes in the first round and no seats won) and the 1995 presidential elections (3.3 per cent for Dominique Voynet) constituted serious set-backs. Explanatory factors for these disappointing performances included inexperience in major elections, poor communication of policy, the aftermath of recession, the first-past-the-post electoral system and the resurgence of the Right.
But the major weakness of French political ecology has been its ever-increasing fragmentation, with green politicians more intent on ideological finesse and factional disputes than on formulating environmental policy. These divisions prevented the election of a single green MEP in the 1994 European elections. By that year, there was a green party for most shades of the political spectrum, with the Verts moving leftwards, GE drifting to the centre, CPNT (a hunting lobby) and the Nouveaux Écologistes firmly on the Right, while Antoine Waechter's Mouvement Écologiste Indépendant sought to be on neither Left nor Right. Although this is a fair reflection of the competing constituencies that form the environmental movement, it has led to voter confusion, the marginalization of green parties and the dilution of their influence on decision-makers, despite the continued saliency of national and global environmental problems.