French Green party boss resigns in fresh blow to left

The head of France's Greens party resigned on Monday after being accused of "psychological violence" by a former partner, dealing a fresh blow to the country's beleaguered left-wing political coalition.

French Green party boss resigns in fresh blow to left
Julien Bayou arriving for a meeting in June. Bayou has been accused of psychological harassment by his ex-girlfriend. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

Julien Bayou, head of the Europe Ecology Greens party (EELV), said in a statement that he was stepping down due to the “unsustainable” nature of his position.

He has denied the allegations and said he would remain an MP, adding that the decision did not call into question “my current or future commitment”.

The environmentalist came under pressure last week after fellow EELV lawmaker Sandrine Rousseau told a TV show that she had met Bayou’s former partner, who was “very depressed”.

Bayou “has behaviour that causes women mental breakdowns,” Rousseau claimed.

The explosive allegations came amid a separate scandal that has enveloped the fellow left-wing party France Unbowed (LFI), where a senior MP recently admitted hitting his wife during a break up.

Rousseau has faced criticism for publicly undermining a colleague on the basis of allegations about his private life that have not been reported to the police.

Bayou called it “Kafka on social networks”, adding that he had “been accused of things that have not been stated (to me), which the accusers say are not punishable as a crime.”

An internal EELV committee that investigates gender-based or sexual violence began a probe into Bayou in July.

At the time, he said he was going through a “breakup that includes barely concealed threats to me and a form of manipulation that I can only condemn.”

After years in the political wilderness, France’s left-wing parties grouped together in a coalition known as “Nupes” for parliamentary elections in June.

The alliance raised hopes they might serve as a united opposition to the centrist ruling alliance of President Emmanuel Macron, but it has struggled to maintain a common front.

Communist party head Fabien Roussel broke ranks publicly with his partners in mid-September, when he said the left “must defend the notion of work, and not be the left of benefits and social security.”

Rousseau replied that “work was a value of the right”, adding that people had “the right to be lazy” and that the left should be focused on reducing the length of the working week.

Allegations about harassment and assault are rife in French politics, surfacing regularly since the #MeToo movement against sexual violence began in 2017.

In July, Damien Abad, a right-winger who was named minister in Macron’s freshly installed centrist government, was forced to step down over rape allegations.

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Macron calls for stricter Twitter controls on Covid disinformation

French President Emmanuel Macron criticised Twitter's new boss Elon Musk on Thursday, saying the entrepreneur was wrong to drop the fight against Covid disinformation as he slashes back content moderation on the platform.

Macron calls for stricter Twitter controls on Covid disinformation

With his country facing a fresh surge in coronavirus infections, Macron said the subject of misleading Covid information should be addressed head on, not swept under the rug.

“I think this is a big issue,” Macron, on a state visit to the United States, told broadcaster ABC. “What I push very much, for one, is exactly the opposite: more regulation.”

He said such protections have been implemented and enforced in France and “at the European level.”

Freedom of expression remains paramount, Macron insisted, “but there is responsibilities and limits” to what can be written and disseminated.

“You cannot go into the streets and have a racist speech or anti-Semitic speech,” the French leader said. “You cannot put at risk the life of somebody else. Violence is never legitimate in democracy.”

Macron’s concept of freedom of expression within acceptable limits is far from the libertarian approach of Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist” who has sacked many of the Twitter employees tasked with content moderation.

Musk has begun to allow Twitter users banned from the platform for posting disinformation, such as former US president Donald Trump, to return.

And it emerged this week that Twitter has stopped enforcing a rule preventing users from sharing misleading information about Covid-19 and vaccine effectiveness.

The billionaire Musk has made no secret of his fierce opposition to health restrictions put in place to fight the pandemic, especially when they meant the temporary shuttering of his Tesla electric vehicle factory in California.

“To say that they can not leave their house and they will be arrested if they do… this is fascist. This is not democratic, this is not freedom,” Musk raged in April 2020 on a conference call with analysts.

On Wednesday the European Union issued a sharp warning to Musk, saying he must do “significantly” more to fight disinformation, such as reinforcement of content moderation, in order to comply with EU law.

“There is still huge work ahead” for Twitter, said Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner for the internal market.