German Green leader to run for Berlin mayor


BERLIN – A leader of Germany’s Greens has said she will run for mayor of Berlin, where opinion polls show the party has a strong chance of winning one of the country’s top political offices.

Renate Künast, a minister in Germany’s last Social Democrats-Greens government under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, ended months of speculation about her political future by throwing her name into the September 2011 Berlin mayoral race.

Surging support for the Greens has shaken up Germany’s political landscape in recent months.

Never before have the Greens won the top office in any of Germany’s 16 federal states, even though they have often been junior coalition partner. Opinion polls show Ms Künast could beat incumbent SPD mayor Klaus Wowereit in the election. “Yes, I’m running for the office of mayor in Berlin,” said Ms Künast (54), at a local Greens party rally in Berlin yesterday.

Germany’s Greens have evolved from a splinter group into the world’s most successful environmental party, a mainstream grouping with broad national appeal winning 20 per cent support in national voter surveys.

They scored highest in a recent Forsa institute poll in Berlin with 29 per cent support, ahead of Mr Wowereit’s SPD at 27 per cent and the Christian Democrats (CDU) at 17 per cent.

After having shared power at national level from 1998 to 2005, the Greens are benefiting from disenchantment with chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right government – especially at its decision to extend use of nuclear power beyond 2021. They have also benefited from public concern about climate change and from their clear opposition to a multi-billion euro rail station in Stuttgart that has inspired protests. – (Reuters)