Germany: Green shoots

The Green party shoots to 23% in a Der Spiegel poll on federal intentions.  Was Fukushima Daiichi responsible?

The Green Party are having to deal with the reality of Coalition.  Having entered government in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate state elections which occurred directly after the Japanese nuclear reactor catastrophe at Fukushima Daiichi, the "against party", as The Economist calls them, have had to deal with the reality of power.  And not just nuclear power.  Suddenly, the Greens have been catapulted into centre stage.

Now Der Spiegel has released a poll on voting intentions at federal level, and this shows the Greens benefitting from both events:  the fear of reliance on nuclear energy at a time of uncertainty over the safety of such power plants, and their election victories in two of the federal republic's sixteen states.

A new dimension in German politics has arrived.  Unless the Greens make a hash of governing in the two Länder (state) capitals of Mainz (Rhineland-Palatinate) and Stuttgart (Baden-Württemberg), they'll be in a strong position to vie for a share of federal power at the Bundestag in Berlin.

Ever since WWII, the liberal, free-market Free Democrats have been the third party of German federal politics, with their leader often taking the post of Foreign Minister.  Current FDP leader, Guido Westerwelle, holds that job now.  But the German voting system demands that a 5% threshold is reached for a party to enter any leglisature.  And the FDP has dropped to a precarious 5% in the Der Spiegel poll.

Results of the 2009 German general election for the Bundstag were:

CDU/CSU (conservatives):  33.8% and 239 seats
SPD (social democrats):  23% and 146 seats
FDP (liberal centre-right):  14.6% and 93 seats
The Left Party (democratic socialists):  11.9% and 76 seats
Greens (environmentalist social liberals):  10.7% and 68 seats.

The next election is due in October 2013, so there is a long way to go.  But with the Greens now in serious contention, a new force in German politics has arrived.  Joint leaders of the Greens, known as Co-Chairs, are:

Claudia Roth, a 55-year old German ex-artistic director (of theatre and rock bands) and human rights specialist.

Cem Özdemir, a 45-year old Turkish-born, secular Muslim, German, ex-Teacher and freelance Journalist.

Neither seems to have much experience of business.  As yet, neither has any ministerial experience.  However, in two and a half years, they might be propelled into coalition with either the social democrats (SDP) or conservatives (the CDU and their Bavarian sister party, the CSU).

The Greens' experience of government at state level will help them hugely, as it could transform them from an "against party" into a pro-active protagonistic participating party.  Or at least, that's the hope.  But can they make the transition?

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