Germany’s Greens celebrate victory in defeat

September 28, 2009

Sunday’s federal election threw Germany’s Greens into a state of disarray — should they celebrate their best result ever or mourn the fact they failed to prevent a centre-right coalition and languished in fifth place?

“A Victory that is a Defeat”, “Triumph and Bitterness”, “Celebrations despite missing goal,” read newspaper headlines on Monday.

(Photo: Kuenast and Trittin, top candidates of the Greens party, arrive on stage after the general election, Sept 27, Reuters/Ralph Orlowski)

The Greens, one of the world’s most successful environmental parties, won more than a tenth of the vote — not bad for a party whose members entered parliament as revolutionary rebels in the 1980s flourishing potted plants and sporting woolly jumpers.

“We feel strengthened in our fight for ecological modernisation, social justice and civil rights by the best result we have ever had,” co-leader Juergen Trittin told hundreds of party faithful on Sunday evening at the Greens headquarters in Berlin.

But a German colleague who attended the event, Hans-Edzard Busemann, told me the ambiance was confused rather than euphoric, and faces fell when they saw the results for the first time.

No wonder. The Greens were hoping to be the third strongest party at the elections and kingmakers in governemnt coalition talks — a goal they missed by a long stretch, trailing behind their nemesis the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) on 14.6 percent and the far-left Linke on 11.9 percent.

They¬†campaigned hard to prevent a centre-right coalition of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives with the pro-business Free Democrats — and failed.

Such a coalition is likely to undo much of the work that the Greens, who emerged from the anti-nuclear and peace movememnts of the 1970s, carried out while ruling with the Social Democrats from 1998 to 2005.

For a start, it will probably rewrite a national nuclear phaseout deal by allowing reactors to run longer than the previously agreed 2020 deadline. (Click here to see a story that a colleague in Frankfurt, Vera Eckert, wrote about this earlier today)

It will also likely change or drop the generous feed-in law for renewable energies introduced by the Greens and SPD, a prospect which sent shares in highly subsidised solar firms such as Q-Cells and Solarworld sliding on Monday.

(Photo: Supporters of the Green party react after the first exit polls, Sept 27, Reuters/Ralph Orlowski)

And as if all that that weren’t enough, Greens co-leader Cem Oezdemir — the only member of an ethnic minority to have ever headed a German party — failed to win a seat a parliament despite securing 30 percent of the vote in his constituency in Stuttgart.

So despite their best election result ever, the Greens may not be able to avoid some soul-searching over the coming weeks and months.

Some political analysts argue very little has changed in their manifesto over the past four years and the party executive, with the exception of Oezdemir, is still the same. Will Sunday’s result prompt a Greens renewal?

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