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Alliance '90/The Greens
Bündnis 90/Die Grünen
Leader Claudia Roth and
Cem Özdemir
Founded 1979 (The Greens)
1993 (Merger of The Greens and Alliance '90)
Headquarters Platz vor dem Neuen Tor 1
10115 Berlin
Ideology Green politics
Political position Centre-left
International affiliation Global Greens
European affiliation European Green Party
European Parliament Group The Greens–European Free Alliance
Official colours Green
Seats in the Bundestag
Seats in the Regional Parliaments
Seats in the European Parliament
Website
http://www.gruene.de
Politics of Germany
Political parties
Elections

The Alliance '90/The Greens (German: Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) is a green political party in Germany which originated from the merger of the German Green Party and Alliance 90 in 1993. Its leaders are Claudia Roth and Cem Özdemir. In the last elections, the party won 10.7% of the votes and 68 out of 612 seats in the Bundestag.

Contents

History

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1970s: Foundation

In the 1970s, environmentalists and peace activists were politically organized as thousands of action groups. To form a parliamentary arm to this movement some founded The Greens (German: Die Grünen). Opposition to pollution, use of nuclear power, NATO military action, and certain aspects of life in a highly industrialized society were principal campaign issues. The greens originated from civil initiatives, new social movements of the protests of 1968, but also from the conservative spectrum. Important figures in the first years were – among others – Joschka Fischer, Antje Vollmer, Petra Kelly, Undine von Blottnitz [1] and Herbert Gruhl. The idea came from Heinrich Boell, when he realized that the Left wing needed a new face and packageing, after he read Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, which revealed the cruelty of Socialism, behind the Iron Curtain. He took the Communist Manifesto and replaced the working class with the environment, the red flag with a green one and changed the name to the Green Movement.

1980s: Parliamentary representation on the federal level

In 1982, the conservative factions of the party broke away to form the Ecological Democratic Party. Those who remained in the Green party were more strongly anti-military action and against restrictions on immigration and abortion, while supporting the decriminalization of marijuana use, placing a higher priority on working for the rights of homosexuals, and tending to advocate what they described as "anti-authoritarian" concepts of education and child-upbringing. They also tended to identify more closely with a culture of protest and civil disobedience, frequently clashing with police at demonstrations against nuclear weapons, nuclear energy, and the construction of a new runway (Startbahn West) at Frankfurt airport. Those who left the party at the time might have felt similarly about some of these issues, but did not identify with the forms of protest in which Green Party members took part.

Photo taken at 2001 party convention
Photo taken at 2001 party convention

After some success at state level and the vote for the European parliament, the party first won 27 seats with 5.7% of the vote in the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, in the 1983 election. Among the important political issues at the time was the deployment of Pershing II IRBMs and nuclear-tipped cruise missiles by the U.S. and NATO on West German soil, generating strong opposition in the general population that found an outlet in mass demonstrations. The newly formed party was able to draw on this popular movement to recruit support. Partly due to the impact of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, and to growing awareness of the threat of air pollution and acid rain to German forests ("Waldsterben"), the Greens increased their share of the vote to 8.3% in the January 1987 West German national election. Around this time, Joschka Fischer emerged as the unofficial leader of the party, which he remained until resigning all leadership posts following the German federal election, 2004.

1990s: German reunification, fall out of parliament

The 1990 Green Party logo

In the December 1990 elections, taking place in newly-reunified Germany, the Greens in the West did not pass the 5% limit required to win seats in the Bundestag. It was only due to a temporary modification of German election law, applying the five-percent "hurdle" separately in East and West Germany, that the Greens acquired any parliamentary seats at all. This happened because in the territory of the former GDR, the Greens, in a joint effort with Alliance 90, a loose grouping of civil rights activists with diverse political views, were able to gain more than 5% of the vote. Some people attribute this poor performance to the reluctance of the campaign to cater to the prevalent mood of nationalism and patriotism, instead focusing on subjects such as climate change (a campaign poster at the time proudly stated: "Everyone is talking about Germany; we're talking about the weather!", paraphrasing a popular slogan of Deutsche Bundesbahn, the German national railway.) After the 1994 election, however, the party returned to the Bundestag when the Greens got 7.3% of the vote nationwide and 49 seats.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Rebecca Harms at the "Political Ash Wednesday" 2004 in Biberach/Riss

1998–2002: Greens as governing party, first term

A bicycle-taxi (velotaxi) in front of the German Bundestag in Berlin with the Alliance '90/The Greens livery for the German federal election, 2005.

In 1998, despite a slight fall in their percentage of the vote (6.7%), the Greens retained 47 seats and joined the federal government for the first time in coalition with the Social Democrats. Joschka Fischer became vice chancellor and foreign minister in the new government, which had two other Green ministers (Andrea Fischer, later Renate Künast, and Jürgen Trittin). Almost immediately the party was plunged into a crisis by the question of German participation in the NATO actions in Kosovo. Numerous anti-war party members resigned their party membership when the first post-war deployment of German troops in a military conflict abroad occurred under a Red-Green government, and the party began to experience a long string of defeats in local and regional elections. Disappointment with the Green participation in government increased when anti-nuclear power activists realized that shutting down the country's nuclear plants would not happen as quickly as they wished, and numerous pro-business SPD members of the federal cabinet opposed the environmentalist agenda of the Greens, calling for tacit compromises.

In 2001, the party experienced a further crisis as some Green Members of Parliament refused to back the government's plan of sending military personnel to help with the 2001 Invasion of Afghanistan. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder called a vote of confidence, tying it to his strategy on the war. Four Green MPs and one Social Democrat voted against the government, but Schröder was still able to command a majority.

On the other hand, a major success of the Greens as a governing party, was the 2000 decision to phase out the use of nuclear energy. Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety Jürgen Trittin reached an agreement with energy companies on the gradual phasing out of the country's nineteen nuclear power plants and a cessation of civil usage of nuclear power by 2020. This was authorized through the Nuclear Exit Law. Based on an estimate of 32 years as the normal period of operation for a nuclear power plant, the agreement defines precisely how much energy a power plant is allowed to produce before being shut down.

2002–2005: Greens as governing party, second term

2005 election placard against GMOs

Despite the crises of the preceding electoral period, in 2002, the Greens increased their total to 55 seats (in a smaller parliament) and 8.6%. This was partly due to the perception that the internal debate over the war in Afghanistan had been more honest and open than in other parties, and one of the MPs who had voted against the Afghanistan deployment, Hans-Christian Ströbele, was directly elected to the Bundestag as a district representative for the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg - Prenzlauer Berg East constituency in Berlin, becoming the first Green to ever gain a first-past-the-post seat in Germany. Certain lobby groups which had benefited from Green-initiated legislation in the 1998-2002 term, such as the environmental lobby (Renewable Energies Act) or homosexuals (Registered Partnership Law), also rewarded the party with their votes. Perhaps most important for determining the success of both the Greens and the SPD was the increasing threat of war in Iraq, which was highly unpopular with the German public, and helped gather votes for the parties which had taken a stand against participation in this war. Despite losses for the SPD, the coalition government with the Social Democrats commanded a very slight majority in the Bundestag and was renewed, with Joschka Fischer as foreign minister, Renate Künast as minister for consumer protection, nutrition and agriculture, and Jürgen Trittin as minister for the environment.

One internal issue in 2002 was the failed attempt to settle a long-standing discussion about the question of whether members of parliament should be allowed to become members of the party executive. Two party conventions declined to change the party statute. The necessary majority of two thirds wasn't reached by a very small margin. As a result, former party chairpersons Fritz Kuhn and Claudia Roth (who had been elected into parliament that year) were no longer able to continue in their executive function and were replaced by former party secretary general Reinhard Bütikofer and former Bundestag member Angelika Beer. The party then held a member referendum on this question in the spring of 2003 which did change the party statute. Now members of parliament may be elected for two of the six seats of the party executive, as long as they are not ministers or caucus leaders. 57% of all party members voted in the member referendum, with 67% voting in favor of the change. The referendum was only the second in the history of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, the first having been held about the merger of the Greens and Bündnis 90. In 2004, after Angelika Beer was elected to the European parliament, Claudia Roth was elected to replace her as party chair.

Federal party convention in Oldenburg; Renate Künast speaking (2005)

The only party convention in 2003 was planned for November 2003, but about 20% of the local organisations forced the federal party to hold a special party convention in Cottbus early to discuss the party position in regard to the Agenda 2010, a major reform of the German welfare programs planned by Chancellor Schröder.

The November 2003 party convention was held in Dresden and decided the election platform for the 2004 European Parliament elections. The German Green list for these elections was headed by Rebecca Harms (then leader of the Green parliament party in Lower Saxony) and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, previously Member of the European Parliament for Les Verts, the French Green Party. The November 2003 convention is also noted because it was the first convention of a German political party ever using an electronic voting system.

The Greens gained a record 13 of Germany's 99 seats in these elections, particularly on the back of the perceived competence of Green ministers in the federal government and the unpopularity of the SPD.

In early 2005, the Greens were the target of the German Visa Affair 2005, instigated in the media by the CDU. At the end of April 2005, they celebrated the decommissioning of the Obrigheim nuclear power plant. They are also continuing to support a bill for an Anti-Discrimination Law in the Bundestag.

In May 2005, the only remaining red-green coalition at the provincial (Länder) level of government in North Rhine-Westphalia lost the vote, leaving only the federal government with participation of the Greens (apart from local governments). In the 2005 early federal election the party incurred very small losses and achieved 8.1% of the vote and 51 seats. However, due to larger losses of the SPD, the previous coalition no longer had a majority in the Bundestag.

Map showing Alliance '90/The Greens vote in each of the German constituencies at the German federal election, 2005

2005–present: Greens back in opposition

For almost two years after the federal elections in 2005, the Greens were not part of any government at the state or federal level. In June 2007, the Greens in Bremen entered into a coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

In April 2008 the Greens in Hamburg entered into a coalition with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the first such coalition at the state level in Germany. Although the Greens had to agree to the deepening of the Elbe River, the construction of a new coal-fired power plant and two road projects they had opposed, they also received some significant concessions from the CDU. These include reforming the public schools by increasing the number of elementary school grades, the restoration of the streetcar as a public transportation mode in the city state, and more pedestrian-friendly real estate development.

The Greens founded the first local chapter of a German political party in the U.S. on April 13 2008 at the Goethe-Institut in Washington D.C. Main goal is "to provide a platform for politically active and green-oriented German citizens, in and beyond Washington D.C., to discuss and actively participate in German Green politics. […] to foster professional and personal exchange, channeling the outcomes towards the political discourse in Germany."[2]

Electorate

The Infratest Dimap political research company has suggested the Green voter demographic includes those on higher incomes (e.g. above €2000/month) and the party's support is less among households with lower incomes. The same polling research also concluded that the Greens received fewer votes from the unemployed and general working population, with business people favouring the party as well as the Free Democratic Party. According to Infratest Dimap the Greens received more voters from the age group 34-42 than any other age group and that the young were generally more supportive of the party than the old. (Source: Intrafest Dimap political research company for the ARD.[3])

The Greens have a higher voter demographic in urban areas than rural areas, except for a small number of rural areas with pressing local environmental concerns, such as strip mining or radioactive waste deposits. The cities of Bonn, Cologne, Stuttgart, Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich have among the highest percentage of Green voters in the country. The smaller towns of Freiburg, Tübingen, Konstanz, Oldenburg, Heidelberg and Göttingen, most of them towns with old and fairly large Universities, also have a strong share of Green votes. The party has a lower level of support in the states of the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany).

See also

References

Literature about the German Green Party

  • Frankland, E. Gene / Schoonmaker, Donald (1992): Between Protest & Power: The Green Party in Germany. Boulder, San Francisco, Oxford: Westview Press.
  • Kolinsky, Eva (1989): The Greens In West Germany: Organisation and Policy Making Oxford: Berg.
  • Raschke, Joachim (1993): Die Grünen: Wie sie wurden, was sie sind. Köln: Bund-Verlag.
  • Raschke, Joachim (2001): Die Zukunft der Grünen. Frankfurt am Main / New York: Campus.
  • Veen, Hans-Joachim / Hoffmann, Jürgen (1992): Die Grünen zu Beginn der neunziger Jahre. Profil und Defizite einer fast etablierten Partei. Bonn / Berlin: Bouvier.
  • Wiesenthal, Helmut (2000): "Profilkrise und Funktionswandel. Bündnis 90/Die Grünen auf dem Weg zu einem neuen Selbstverständnis", in Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, B5 2000, S. 22-29.

External links


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