Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Greens: A New Centrist Party?

At their party convention in November 2008, The Greens approved a new agenda called the “New Green Deal”. Referring to Roosevelt’s New Deal, they claimed to establish a package of economic programs in order to overcome the crisis. Particularly, it included social and ecological investments and tried hard to sound neither too socialistic nor too liberal. The Greens started the 2009 election campaign as a new centrist party.

The green election campaign itself was quite successful. The ecological party managed to integrate economic issues. It promised to create about one million new “green” jobs by e.g. investing in renewable energy. Further, for their supporters The Greens still seem credible in their main issue nuclear energy: For this reason, they rejected “Jamaica” as an option at the “Länderrat” (party conference) on September 20th.

After all, The Greens won about 800,000 more votes than in 2005 (+2.6% of the valid votes). Though, there are two upcoming problems for the “new centrist” green party and it is hard to say whether it is a winner or a loser.

Firstly, the new German party system involves one more relevant party: The Left. Thus, The Greens become a less important fraction of the Bundestag 2009 – although they got more seats than in 2005. Further, unlike within the New Green Deal, they will have to decide whether to support rather socialist or liberal ideas. When the SPD and The Left ally against Black-Yellow, there is no place for the centre position anymore: If The Greens would simply change their political direction and coalition partner any time, they might lose credibility (what this means: see Michael Weigl’s Article last week). And whatever they choose, they will only become “Number Three” within the potential coalitions SPD-Left-Green or Jamaica.

Secondly, the occupation of its “green” issues by the SPD and, in parts, by the CDU/CSU, might become another problem for The Greens. E.g. Sigmar Gabriel, the designated new party leader of the SPD and former Federal Minister for the Environment, did a very successful election campaign against nuclear energy. Are The Greens still necessary for pro-ecological policy? The answer to this question will be decisive for the party.

It is to be seen if so-called "climate chancellor" Merkel will stay on a pro-ecological course in a coalition with the FDP. It is also to be seen if she will undo the nuclear phaseout. This might solely legitimate the existence of a green centrist party. Otherwise, Trittin, Künast et al. must either decide for one political camp or play the role of a “Mehrheitsbeschaffer” (majority engineer).

Last week, The Saarland-Greens opted for Jamaica. Though, they pointed out that their decision has not been made with regards to contents. Saarbrucken is not Berlin, but the Saarland-Greens’ justification is kind of symptomatic for the New Green Party’s orientation: They seem indifferent.

--Oskar Fischer

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