Monday, March 28, 2011

A Green Governor in Germany

I was going to write at length about the political earthquake in Germany yesterday - partly spawned by Germany's freakout about nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster caused by a real earthquake halfway around the world - but The Economist covers everything pretty well in this blog post. The Green Party has captured the minister presidentship (the German version of the governorship) of Baden-Wuerrtemberg, a wealthy, large state in Germany's southwest - population 10.7 million, larger than many European countries. They came in second place among the parties, but the two center-left parties combined did better than the two center-right parties. This weakens Angela Merkel's government as the opposition gains more power in the upper legislative chamber in Berlin, composed of representatives of the 16 Laender, or states. So just a couple things to add.

Although much of the commentary does not note this, the Green Party was actually leading in the polls months ago, before Fukushima, before Germany decided to sit out when France, Britain and the United States decided to prevent a massacre in Libya. The nuclear disaster - and Merkel's blatantly election-minded reversal of the nuclear extension, which had been the biggest success of her second term - helped put them over the top - weakening the Christian Democratic Union's case in its heartland which it has governed for 58 years, and giving to the edge to the Greens rather than their natural coalition partners the Social Democrats (SPD). But the SPD, even more so than the CDU, has been in decline from its old position as a Volkspartei (one of the two major parties). The Green Party platform resonates in Germany, and it has been pragmatic but principled enough that its environmental, energy, economic and foreign policies appeal to a growing section of the German electorate. The SPD is more economically populist - challenged from its left flank by the post-communist Left Party - as well as particularly pro-Russian - Gerhard Schroeder got on famously with Vladimir Putin, although his Green foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, did not. Once the party of protest, the Greens have become the most centrist of Germany's five major parties - and it is an admirable, forward-looking centrism. They also have a more pro-European outlook than the Christian-liberal coalition governing in Berlin. So congratulations to the Greens. And there is a very good chance that they soon could be leading the government in Berlin as well - although the position of Buergermeister, not Kanzler.

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