Norwegian hits top of French politics

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Eva Joly, the au pair from Norway who gained fame as a judge and corruption fighter in France, has recently risen to the highest levels of French politics. She has her eyes on the French presidency, and may at least wind up as a government minister.

Former judge and future candidate for the Greens at EU elections in 2009, Eva Joly attends a meeting of the new Europe Ecology Union, ahead of the European elections to be held in June 2009 in Paris, France on March 15, 2009. Photo by Mehdi Taamallah/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo via Newscom Photo via Newscom

Joly has announced that she will run for the French presidency as the Green Party candidate in 2012. Born Gro Eva Farseth in Oslo in 1943, she  holds both Norwegian and French citizenship because of her marriage to a French citizen.

Public opinion polls have ranked her as one of the most popular politicians in France, not least for her crusades against corruption. Now a French member of the European Parliament, Joly is turning her attention to domestic politics within France and has a good chance of becoming Justice Minister, if not president, if her party wins government power.

French right-wing politician Jean Marie Le Pen, however, claims Joly is “not French enough.” He contends she “has no direct connection with France and she wasn’t even born here.”

Le Pen is the first to directly attack Joly’s bid for the presidency. Other French voters have made little issue of Joly’s Norwegian origins, and instead hailed her background from a social welfare state.

Her name has been associated with 30 years of high-profile and fearless campaigning against corruption. An Elf petroleum scandal in the 1990s secured her a position in the inner circles of French political life, notes newspaper Aftenposten.  According to a professor in government at the University of Oslo, Raino Malnes, it also made her a household name in France.

A poll recently published in la Libération left Joly with high marks. Some 38 per cent of the respondents said they liked Joly and 16 per cent would prefer her as president. Given that she has only just announced her candidacy, political experts say these figures are extremely good. The poll also places Joly among the 10 most popular French politicians.

Even if she looks like she may do well in the coming election, Malnes does not think she has much chance of winning the Presidency. The Greens likely will form a coalition with the Socialist Party and possibly the French Communist Party, he notes. If they win a majority together, it’s likely to give Joly a ministerial post in the French government. Malnes tips her for the role of minister of justice or minister of home affairs. “Both are very important positions,” Malnes told Aftenposten.

The French Left is doing well so far, getting 55 per cent support in a poll last week. President Sarkozy’s popularity is down to 24 per cent, reports Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

Malnes does not believe Joly’s Norwegian background will be a problem. “Joly is well integrated in French culture  and there was no indication that she was taken less seriously because of her Norwegian background when she worked to root out corruption,” says Malnes to Aftenposten. He points to Sarkozy’s Hungarian background to support his argument.

Views and News from Norway/Sven Goll
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