Turmoil within EELV

Turmoil within EELV

In November, 2021, Julien Bayou, the national secretary of EELV (Europe-Écologie-Les Verts) and eventually the co-chair of his caucus in the National Assembly, ended his relationship with his companion of several years.[1] According to Le Monde, rumors of “violence” circulated within the party. The first public hint was made on an instagram account, balancetonelu (Call out your elected official) on June 19, the day of the second round elections for the National Assembly. The photo showed a Julien Bayou ballot with the word “prédateur” written on it.[2] The commentary on the photo identified the posters as “ecofeminist activists” who stated that they would not vote for the Ensemble (Macronist) candidate, and could not vote for Bayou “because of the traumatic memory (sic) that he had left.”

The next public mention was in an article in Le Figaro on July 7, focused on “parties of the Left” that were dealing with matters of sexual violence within their ranks. (The reference was to the recent conviction of Adrien Quatennens of La France Insoumise, given a four month suspended sentence for spousal abuse.)[3] Bayou commented in this article on his own situation, noting that his ex-companion had brought her case against him to the internal EELV commission, “following a painful and difficult break-up.”  He continued, noting that she had sent him a message (apparently by email, since he had it as proof) three days after reporting to the internal commission: “Be worried.  I’m going to return in strength . . . The [your?] fall is going to be painful.”  He hoped the commission would act quickly; he was guilty neither of “sexist nor sexual violence, nor of inappropriate behavior towards anyone.” [4] Le Monde noted that his comments had received little attention, because they came at the very end of the piece, nor was he mentioned in the title.

The issue exploded with the appearance of Sandrine Rousseau–a member of EELV and an écofeministe– on C à vous (France 5) on September 19. She responded to a twitter question from #noustoutes (All of Us) which made reference to the allegations and asked what had happened to the investigation of his conduct.

(“Bonjour, EELV, the CVSS [an internal investigation unit within the party focused on sexual violence] took up in July the accusations of violence committed by Julien Bayou against his ex-companion. How to ensure that the women activists are safe? No measure seems to have been taken, why?”) Rousseau responded that there had been no actual physical violence that could be taken to court, but rather it had been a kind of “moral” violence, what came to be called “psychological violence.” Rousseau further stated that she had been in contact with the woman, who was deeply depressed and had made an attempt at suicide.[5] The hosts, perhaps expecting a kind of routine “wait for the investigation” sort of response, were visibly surprised that she went into such detail.

Rousseau, however, ventured onto this terrain quite deliberately. She knew she would be asked the question, and she had contacted the complainant beforehand, asking if she could reveal her story. The woman (with the pseudonym Aline in Libération, and Agathe in Reporterre) gave her permission, saying she wanted to “mediatize” her version of events, since Bayou had begun to speak of it, telling his side.[6]

This interview did get attention. Bayou resigned the following day, on September 20, as co-president of his caucus in the National Assembly (though not from the Assembly itself), and on September 26 he resigned as national secretary of EELV. One of his reasons for resigning his offices, Bayou said, was so that he could be free to defend himself.  He left the actual telling of his story to Marie Dosé, his attorney.  She stated that the alleged victim had sent an email on June 30, 2022, to Julien Bayou, Sandrine Rousseau, and the party committee in charge of investigation.  In it she had described Bayou as a manipulateur and said she was going to die, by overdosing on medication.  She then sent an email apparently to the same group–but certainly to Bayou, since his lawyer referenced it–making the threat that he had quoted in Le Figaro.  

Dosé had turned then to Rousseau who, she said, had weaponized the genuine issue of violence against women for political ends.  And the members of EELV, many of them close to Bayou, did not wish to speak about Rousseau, with Hélène Hardy of the executive bureau of the party, one of those who eventually ran to replace Bayou as general secretary, noting that it was “interesting” that Rousseau had made herself the spokesperson on a number of issues, so that the press had gotten into the habit of running to her “pour faire le buzz,” but that this sort of thing did not help in bringing the party together.  Hardy also supported Bayou in his complaints about the slowness of the internal committee, suggesting that it would, in fact, have been better to have outsourced the investigation to impartial experts in the field.[7]

On September 30, Libération reported that an informal group (not the formally constituted investigatory cell) had been “surveilling” Bayou’s behavior for several years. They had a WhatsApp group. They approached women they knew to have been close to Bayou, and asked them to speak of their experiences with him. One ex, who had had a bad break-up with him, had dissed him severely, then thought better of it and actually warned Bayou that people were asking about him. Aline/Agathe was informed that this surveillance was being carried out in the interest of protecting her, a comment that seems to have unnerved her instead.[8]

The article published by Reporterre, an online ecology journal, on October 25, 2022, focused on the women, especially Aline/Agathe, but including others who had made allegations against Bayou. “It’s never easy to speak for a woman who believes herself to be the victim of psychological violence,” noted the reporter, Laury Anne Cholez; and indeed, the awful recounting included Bayou’s infidelity, a miscarriage, a forgetfulness about what mattered to her, stress during the Covid lockdown, gaslighting. Jeanne, another lover disturbed by his infidelity, was told that “I was crazy, excessive, and paranoid.” And another, Julie, stated that during their relationship “I got insecure, because he was always in the process of flirting with anyone around.” The author found three former partners who had left the relationship without being scarred by it, even as they criticized his behavior. A fourth, Elen Debost, an ecofeminist and member of the departmental council of Sarthe, made the following observation: “He goes out with women who resemble each other. Often younger than he, very intelligent, stable, rather discreet. . . . He does not know how to be in an exclusive relationship, but he doesn’t warn his companions, nor his occasional mistresses. Certainly, it’s not criminally reprehensible. But his status as a political man [whose stature is] rising, gives him an ever greater aura and facilitates his access to short adventures with young female activists in the same time that he has longer relationships with younger women that he permanently damages.”[9]

Bayou had declined to speak with Reporterre.

So there is where it ended. The EELV elected a new national secretary. Bayou has been quiet, though he was photographed in the protests against retirement reform. The internal investigation cell did nothing in the end, unable to schedule a meeting with Aline/Agathe and unwilling to call Bayou to testify until they had done so. There is no ongoing legal process, because there is nothing that amounts to a prosecutable crime.

The Minister of Justice, Éric Dupond-Moretti, criticized the “private” justice of the EELV, accountable to no one and outside the code of ethics that governed the judiciary; you can’t outsource this, he said, “to I don’t know which group, subgroup, Politburo.”  Sandrine Rousseau, on France 3, stated that the Libération article was “extremely problematic”: “women have the right to speak, and they have the right to protect themselves, and so long as the justice system won’t do that, there is nothing to be condemned in that.”[10]


Header image by Shutterstock.com, of Julien Bayou in the National Assembly.

[1] The timeline is entirely from this source: Julien Lemaignen, “Julien Bayou accusé de violences psychologiques par son ex-compagne: comprendre quatre mois de crise à EELV,” Le Monde, October 4, 2022.


[2]Cited in Julien Lemaignen, “Julien Bayou accusé,” https://www.instagram.com/p/Ce_rBUiDA-c/?hl=fr (comments). Accessed March 11, 2023.

[3] See earlier blog post on Quatennens: https://jharsin.colgate.domains/blog/uncategorized/la-rentree-la-france-insoumise-and-reconquete/

[4] Sophie de Ravinel, “Les partis de gauche face au spectre des violences sexuelles,” Le Figaro, July 7, 2022.  https://www.lefigaro.fr/politique/les-partis-de-gauche-face-au-spectre-des-violences-sexuelles-20220707. Significantly, however, Aline/Agathe provided another, less truncated version of this email to Reporterre: “I’m going to arrange things so that you can’t hurt me any more. You have forgotten who I was but since I’m not dead don’t worry, or rather worry. I’m going to return in strength . . . The fall [what or whose fall?] is going to be painful.” Laury-Anne Cholez, “Affaire Julien Bayou: les femmes parlent,” Reporterre, October 25, 2022.  https://reporterre.net/Affaire-Julien-Bayou-les-femmes-parlent

[5] https://youtu.be/v6EyAAYGBwc. Sandrine Rousseau on C à vous, September 19, 2023.

[6] Charlotte Belaïch and Willy Le Devin,  “Affaire Bayou: comment des militantes et des ex ont mis le chef d’EE-LV sous surveillance,” Libération, September 30, 3033.  https://www.liberation.fr/politique/affaire-bayou-comment-des-militantes-et-des-ex-ont-mis-le-chef-dee-lv-sous-surveillance-20220930_V34QLSZHJ5GJ5K3PHVIGIHRBSE/. Cited in Julien Lemaignen, “Julien Bayou accusé.”

[7] Sandrine Casssini and Julie Carriat, “Après sa démission, Julien Bayou donne sa version des faits et s’en prend à Sandrine Rousseau,” Le Monde, September 27, 2022.  https://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2022/09/27/julien-bayou-passe-a-l-offensive-et-cible-sandrine-rousseau_6143317_823448.html

[8] Belaïch and Le Devin, “Affaire Bayou.”

[9] Laury-Anne Cholez, “Affaire Julien Bayou: les femmes parlent,” Reporterre, October 25, 2022.  https://reporterre.net/Affaire-Julien-Bayou-les-femmes-parlent

[10] Julien Lemaignen, “Julien Bayou accusé de violences psychologiques par son ex-compagne: comprendre quatre mois de crise à EELV,” Le Monde, October 4, 2022.  https://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2022/10/04/julien-bayou-accuse-de-violences-psychologiques-par-son-ex-compagne-comprendre-quatre-mois-de-crise-a-eelv_6144349_823448.html

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