Television ecologist launches French presidential bid

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French television presenter and green activist Nicolas Hulot announced on Wednesday that he hopes to run as an environmentalist candidate in next year's presidential election.

The 56-year-old face of long-running nature series Ushuaia, one of private network TF1's most lucrative brands, said he wanted to use the trust he has built among the French public to push for a new type of politics.

Hulot had previously mulled taking part in France's 2007 presidential race before dropping out, and his candidacy has angered many in the green movement backing candidates from the established Europe-Ecology party.

Announcing at a municipal hall in the Paris suburbs that this time he means to go through with his campaign, he said he hoped the green rank and file would support him, along with disillusioned voters of right and left.

"I want to encourage the emergence of a new political majority. Alone, I can achieve nothing," he said.

"My candidacy is launched in the general interest, it is opposition to the choices, methods and vision of the current majority," he said, referring to the programme of President Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right government.

Many in the green movement and on the left are suspicious of Hulot's cordial relationship with Sarkozy, and critical of the connections between the Ushuaia brand -- in which he has an interest -- and big business.

But, in his announcement Hulot aligned himself rhetorically with the left, saying he supported wealth redistribution and criticised the "opaque world of finance" and "unfettered capitalism".

"That said, this clarification should not be seen as an endorsement of any of those on the left or in the centre that seek to run the country. As I see it, my support will not automatically go to anybody," he said.

Hulot did not clarify whether he intends to stand in the Europe-Ecology primary to seek the party's formal endorsement, or to stand as an independent at the risk of splitting the green vote.

French presidential elections are fought over two rounds so, in the likely event that Hulot does not qualify for the run-off, his endorsement of another candidate could provide crucial support for another candidate.

On the other hand, a minority candidate loses state campaign finance if he or she does not win at least five percent of first round votes, making Hulot an economic threat to a mainstream Europe-Ecology champion.

Europe-Ecology is expected to hold a vote to choose its candidate in June.

© 2011 AFP

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