Pioneering German state government collapses


HAMBURG’S STATE government has collapsed, ending a two-year pioneering coalition between the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Greens.

The premature end of the administration has knocked back expectations that the coalition in Germany’s second-largest city was a test-run for a possible alliance at federal level.

Tensions had been building for months in Hamburg’s city-state parliament since, as the price for participation, the Greens had to agree to controversial plans to build a coal power station and dredge the River Elbe for container ship traffic.

In the end it was a death by degrees, beginning with the departure, for personal reasons, of Hamburg’s popular CDU mayor, Ole von Beust.

After he was followed by several senior CDU figures, the Greens pulled the plug.

“It was impossible to continue the alliance because of too many personnel factions and a drift by the CDU from agreed goals,” said the Green Alternative List (GAL) in a statement.

Last week German chancellor Angela Merkel, apparently seeing the writing on the wall, dismissed the prospect of a federal CDU-Green coalition as a “pipe dream”.

Yesterday’s collapse in Hamburg has proved her right.

In Berlin, the Green Party’s federal leaders expressed their support for the decision to end the pioneering coalition yesterday.

“If the common basis of trust is lost, then new elections are the logical consequence,” said co-leader Claudia Roth.

Leading CDU politicians in Berlin didn’t seem too cut up about the collapse either.

“Hamburg shows that there is an inadequate level of political common ground between the CDU and the Greens,” said Wolfgang Bosbach of the CDU. “Sometimes theory and practice lie quite far apart.”

As her CDU flounders in the polls at just 32 per cent, party leader Dr Merkel has begun a political attack on the Greens, giving it an attention that is a growing reflection of the environmentalist party’s leap in support. Recent polls put the Greens at 22 per cent, on the heels of the Social Democrats (SPD).

Some CDU figures in Hamburg suggested the Greens’ poll high was the real reason for forcing new elections.