World Politics: The rise of the Greens

Green parties move into the mainstream. Although not yet a global phenomenon, the Green movement is coming of age.

Climate Change-related issues continue to hit the headlines. And global warming is now predicted to deliver more frequent and severe weather. 

Floods in Mozambique, Pakistan and Thailand, snow storms in America, frozen runways at Heathrow and famine in Somalia are a foretaste of coming events. 

Unsurprisingly, Green parties in many countries are transitioning from protest movements to significant parliamentary players. Although not quite everywhere, it seems.

David Hay, a New Zealand parliamentary candidate for the Epsom seat in Auckland, claimed the Greens had moved from being "seriously radical to radically serious". The same could be said of the environmental movement in many countries.


The Green Party of Australia has one member of the lower House of Representatives and in the upper house a total of 9 Senators. It is in formal alliance in a confidence and supply arrangement at federal level with the governing Australian Labor Party. 

At state level, the Greens hold 24 seats in state and territory parliaments and at local authority level have in excess of a 100 councillors. The Party claims nearly 10,000 members across the country. 

In Tasmania, Nick McKim leads a 5-strong Green Party team in the lower house of the state legislature and is currently in coalition government with Labor on the island.


There are active Green parties in many Asian countries, most of which are members of the Asia-Pacific Green Network (APGN).  

Full Members include the Greens Japan, ECOLO Japan, the Kanagawa Network Movement (of Japan), Korea Greens (of South Korea), the Green Party Taiwan, the Taiwan Friends of the Global Greens, Uttarakhand Parivartan Party (of India), the Green Party of Pakistan, and Partido Kalikasan (the Philippine Green Party).

Associate Members include the Green Party Nepal, the Nature Conservation Party (of Nepal), the Mongolian National Green Movement, the Sri Lanka Green Alliance and the Philippine Greens.

Friends of APGN include the China Green Party, the Chinese Green Party, the Green Party of China, the Green Party of Hong Kong and Sarekat Hijau (of Indonesia).

Strikingly, none of these parties is yet represented in their respective national parliaments.


The Partido Verde do Brasil (PV) was formed in 1986 during a period of military dictatorship. It now has 15 members in the lower Chamber of Deputies and one Senator.

It has far to go in terms of influencing policy in the land of the Amazon, and is as yet not a major force on the national scene. However, its power to alter the policy positions of the major parties might be under-estimated or under-utilised. Green candidate Marina Silva garnered 19.3% of the popular vote in 2010 which prevented Dilma Rousseff from gaining 50% thus forcing her into a run-off. The party did well in several cities in that presidential poll.

The PV is now a junior party in the coalition cabinet in Brasilia.


Allance '90/The Greens hold 68 of 622 seats in the Bundestag in Berlin. The Party has 241 seats in regional parliaments and 14 seats in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. 

There are 58,000 members of the Green Party in Germany. Progress is being made at all levels. 

In May this year Winfried Kretschmann was elected as the Party's fitst Land premier when he took the helm in the rich south-western state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, where the Greens run a government in coalition with the Social Democrats. It is a coalition partner also in four other German states. 

The Party benefitted from a 2011 'Spring Surge', as Germany media coined it, with national support nudging 23%. This has dropped off of late, now falling to below 20%. 

The next federal elections are due in 2013. With 10.7% of votes gained in 2009, a 20% showing in two years' time would be a dramatic improvement.

New Zealand

The Green Party of Aotearoa currently has 9 seats in the House of Representatives, having gained 6.72% in the 2008 election. 

Since then the Green candidate for Mayor of Wellington, Celia Wade-Brown, was elected in 2010. Wade-Brown was only the second Green to win a mayoral election, following Dame Sukhi Turner's 1995-2004 term of office in Dunedin. 

Recent opinion polls have measured unprecedented support for the Greens in the run-up to the country's 26 November general election, with projected votes reaching as high as 17%. In past contests support has dropped off on polling day, but Sue Kedgley, a Green MP, spoke on TV recently of the reception from the voting public being different this time. 

Green support has surged through defections from the Labour Party, now trailing in polls at under 30%. In the past, the Greens have remained in opposition. This time could be very different if a post-election deal can be struck to form a coalition government with Labour.  


This West African country will host the Third Global Greens Congress in 2012.   Dakar is, at first glance, an unlikely choice of venue as the Rassemblement des écologistes du Sénégal – Les Verts (Rally of the Ecologists of Senegal – The Greens) polled 1% in 2007 and gained one solitary parliamentary seat.  However, President Wade's green economic agenda might be the driver in the decision to invite the global Green politicians to Dakar.

There might be a second reason for the Green parties' decision to stage the event in Africa. The enormous interest being shown by the global investment community in sources of renewable energy to light the continent could have been a contributing factor.

United Kingdom 

In 2010, the Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Caroline Lucas, became Britain's first ever Member of Parliament when she won Brighton Pavilion. This was a significant feat, given Westminster's First-Past-The-Post electoral process, a tortuously difficult system for small parties to break through. 

Lucas' election was followed by the Greens becoming the largest party on Brighton & Hove City Council and forming a governing administration. The party is close to replicating this achievement in the Norfolk city of Norwich.

At present, the Greens have two Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), two Members of the London Assembly and 147 councillors across the two countries. 

Scotland has a different team, the Scottish Green Party which has two Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) at Holyrood.

The Green Party in the UK province of Northern Ireland operates as a subdivision of the Irish Greens, but has one Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly and three councillors in Ulster.

Note that UK elections to the European Parliament, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, Northern Ireland Assembly and London Assembly are conducted on a proportional election basis and therefore in those it should be easier for minor or emerging parties to get elected.

United States

The Greens in America are split between rival groups, being (1) the Green Party of the United States and (2) the US Green Party. In a country where third parties find it almost impossible to break through, such disunity can't assist the Green's chances. As a result, the movement suffers from zero representation at federal, state or gubernatorial levels.

However, Ralph Nader has played his part in bringing the benefits of ecological awareness to the American public.

In the land of gas-guzzling over-sized cars, ridiculously cheap petrol, cities designed for vehicular rather than pedestrian traffic, and vast inter-city distances, Greens were always going to find it hard. A singularly strident message would help. 

But American Greens will take heart from progress made abroad, if members and activists care to research outside the confines of America's chauvenistic media.

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