Germany's Greens second most popular party


GERMANY’S GREEN Party has nosed ahead of the Social Democrats (SPD) in an opinion poll for the first time to become the country’s second most popular political party.

Some 30 years after emerging from Germany’s anti-nuclear, environmentalist and pacifist movements, the party has soared to 24 per cent support in the Forsa poll, published this morning in Stern magazine.

The SPD, with whom the Greens shared power for seven years until 2005, has slipped to just 23 per cent.

“The Greens are profiting from weaknesses of the other parties,” said Manfred Güllner of the Forsa polling agency. “They’re gaining the deserters from the SPD, but also from the CDU .”

The Greens are benefiting too from the appearance of controversial issues such as a decision to extend the life of nuclear power plants and restart work on underground storage facilities for nuclear waste.

The party has tapped into public opposition at local level too, such as the protest over the controversial redevelopment of Stuttgart train station.

Polls show the party is already ahead of the SPD in two key states facing elections next year: the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg and in the city-state of Berlin.

The Greens appear to have shaken off their tradition of in-fighting and are enjoying a relatively stable period in their history.

Mr Güllner gave credit for the stability to Renate Künast and Jürgen Trittin, two former ministers now effective parliamentary leaders and seasoned media performers.

“The time of being a junior partner is over,” said Claudia Roth, co-leader of the party. “Some in the SPD have yet to understand that we’re not a satellite or splinter group from them.”

Mr Güllner said the SPD was “addressing the wrong issues”, such as demonising plans by chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to increase by €5 welfare payments the SPD introduced while in government.

“This doesn’t seem to be an issue that is important to former SPD voters in the middle classes,” he said.

At federal level the Green poll gains are more symbolic than of material significance. For now at least, an alliance with the SPD is still the party’s only chance at power.

Recent rows such as that over nuclear energy have ended tentative talks between the Greens and chancellor Merkel’s CDU. The poll had the CDU at 29 per cent, down five points on its election result a year ago.