German Greens go mainstream in bid for power

Sun Nov 18, 2012 7:27am EST
 
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By Erik Kirschbaum

HANOVER, Germany (Reuters) - Germany's Greens have gone grey. The world's most successful pro-environment party has turned deadly serious about gaining power by stealing votes from Chancellor Angela Merkel - and perhaps by joining her.

The muesli, woolly sweaters, thick beards and endless debates about abstract issues that were once part of any Greens congress are largely gone. In their place is a more mature party of smartly dressed professionals with one clear aim: getting back into government after federal elections next year.

At their unusually harmonious three-day party congress in Hanover that ended on Sunday, Greens leaders were applauded for hailing their party's "conservative values" and unabashedly trying to appeal to center-right voters, using language that a decade ago would have had them booed off the stage.

Pollsters put support for the Greens at 13 percent, enough if the electoral arithmetic goes their way to make them kingmakers after Germans vote in September, 2013.

The party would prefer a coalition with the Social Democrats, renewing a government which ruled Germany from 1998 to 2005. But Greens are quietly thinking the unthinkable and opening up to a possible alliance with Merkel's conservatives, long their political arch enemy.

Greens express distaste for an alliance with Merkel and her Christian Democrats (CDU), but interest in her supporters. "We don't want the CDU, we want only your voters," Katrin Goering-Eckart, a newly-elected party leader, told the Congress.

Goering-Eckart, a Lutheran church leader, expresses the Greens' pride in their weightiness, openly admitting their hope that the makeover will attract conservative voters.

"If you want to run the country, if you want policies that add up, then you've got to be serious about it," she told Reuters. "It's not something you can do with smoke and mirrors."   Continued...

 
German Green Party co-leader Claudia Roth holds a scarf reading: "Green will win" after her re-election at the party convention of the Green Party in Hanover, November 17, 2012. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer