Greens Dream of Power Fading as German Election Nears
Berlin – Sven Suska looked like a typical Greens voter as he sat in his sandals and shorts in the Berlin sun eating a fruit salad, but the computer programmer is abandoning the party he says is now too much part of the establishment. Like other Germans once attracted to the world’s most successful pro-environment party, Suska is now turned off by the Greens — and his defection helps explain a sudden drop in support before Germany’s September 22 election.
“The Greens have this ‘ecological dictatorship’ feeling about them now,” says Suska, 45. “I used to always vote Greens. But not anymore. No one likes to be told what to do. It feels like the Greens are going to make everything more expensive.” Support for the Greens, which traces its roots to the peace movement of the 1970s, hit a high of 23 percent in 2011 after the Fukushima disaster in Japan boosted the appeal of its anti-nuclear message. Within weeks of the tragedy, the Greens stunned Chancellor Angela Merkel by winning control of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, long a conservative stronghold.
As recently as July, the party was polling a robust 15 percent, well above its 2009 result of 10.7 percent. But over the past two months, the Greens have seen their support crumble to 10 percent, a four-year low. The collapse, in the most crucial phase of the campaign, appears to have doomed what faint hopes the party had of returning to power with the Social Democrats (SPD), with whom it ruled from 1998 to 2005.
That government, which included charismatic Greens leader and foreign minister Joschka Fischer, wrote laws to turn off nuclear power by 2020 and made Germany a world leader in renewable energy. Despite their fondness for fast cars, Germans have long had a green streak and a deeper attachment to their trees and forests than many other Europeans.
Green issues featured in German election campaigns long before the Greens party was established in 1980. Their strength forced other parties to adopt green policies as well. Much of the party’s fall in popularity can be traced to a series of self-inflicted wounds. (Reuters)