Flying High Germany's Green Party Eyes Two State Premierships

Never in its history has Germany's Green Party led one of the country's 16 states. Now, the party could come out on top in two state elections next year. Renate Künast's apparent intention to run in Berlin increases the Greens' chances in the capital.

Renate Künast may become the Green Party's first ever governor of a German state. Or, she might be the second.

Renate Künast may become the Green Party's first ever governor of a German state. Or, she might be the second.

Germany's Green Party has had a number of highs in its three-decade history. The party has long had a sizable contingent in the national parliament in Berlin. It has won mayoral battles in significant German cities. And it was even the junior coalition partner to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's government, with then-Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer serving as the party's public face for years.

But the Greens have never managed to win a state election outright, nor have they ever posted a state governor in Germany. That, though, looks like it may soon change.

On Thursday, several German dailies are reporting that the Green Party's co-floor leader Renate Künast intends to challenge Berlin's Social Democratic Mayor Klaus Wowereit in city-state elections next September. The party has so far refused to confirm the reports, but speculation that Künast, a well-known political figure in Germany, would challenge Wowereit for the position of Berlin mayor had been rife for months. In the city-state of Berlin, the post of mayor is equivalent to governor in other states.

Because of Künast's national political significance, many feel that she will be able to capitalize on the Green Party's strong position in current public opinion polls. Currently, some 30 percent of Berlin voters say they would vote for the Green Party were elections held on Sunday, against 26 percent for the SPD.

Flying Carpets

It's not just Künast, however, who might have the opportunity to soon take over the leadership of one of Germany's states. In Baden-Württemberg, the Green Party has seen its support climb steadily in recent months and now finds itself, with 32 percent support, well ahead of the SPD (19 percent) and within just a couple of points of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (34 percent). With the SPD already having indicated it would join a coalition with the Greens as the junior partner -- and with no strong partner in sight for the CDU -- there is a very real possibility that the leader of the Greens in the state, Winfried Kretschmann, will become the state's next governor when voters go to the polls there in March.

Kretschmann has benefited mightily from his party's opposition to "Stuttgart 21," a massive development project in Baden-Württemberg's capital. While construction has already begun on the project -- which envisions moving Stuttgart's train station underground and creating a new city quarter above -- many in the city have mobilized against it, saying it is a vast waste of money that was planned with little input from city residents. Merkel and the CDU have come out in favor of the project.

The 62-year-old Kretschmann, who began his political life as a communist in the mid-1970s, has so far seemed unimpressed by his party's sudden rise. "We are staying on the carpet," he is fond of saying, "even if it happens to be flying at the moment."

But there is no denying that the Green Party's carpet is indeed flying. In nationwide polls, the party has been hitting record after record. A poll published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Wednesday found that 20.5 percent of Germans would vote for the Greens. This time next year, the party might have two governors to show for it.

cgh -- with wire reports


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