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EDITIONS
Monday, 23 September, 2002, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Greens save Schroeder's skin
Greens leadership with Joschka Fischer second from right
The newest party saves the oldest
Mike Linstead

The Greens started out as a rag-bag of brightly dressed young environmentalists, who entered the German parliament for the first time in 1983.

On taking up their seats, they amused and shocked other politicians by handing out sunflowers and refusing to wear suits, ties and smart dresses.


The Greens' policies have become acceptable to a far greater number of Germans than those who actually vote for them

The milestone of involvement in a government coalition was passed 15 years later in 1998, when Gerhard Schroeder's SPD ousted Helmut Kohl.

If Schroeder conferred final political respectability on the Greens then, they have now repaid the favour by scoring their best national result ever and saving that coalition from ignominious defeat.

In the course of the last 20 years, the Greens' policies have become acceptable to a far greater number of Germans than those who actually vote for them.

Greens now in mainstream

Support for recycling, care for the environment, openness towards a multi-cultural Germany, rejection of nuclear energy, a reluctance to sanction the use of German troops abroad - these are issues the Greens have brought into the mainstream of German centre-left politics.

Joschka Fischer
Fischer's informal style wins approval
Opinion polls show that in Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, the Greens have the most popular politician in Germany.

His background - student movement in the Sixties, radicalism in the Seventies, environmentalism in the Eighties and beyond - mirrors the political development of many of his contemporaries.

Fischer's sense of humour, his reputation as a bon vivant, and his inclination towards "straight talking" are also characteristics which attract support.

Green fundamentals

But ultimately, the two fundamental themes of Green politics in Germany - the environment and anti-militarism - are the elements which seem to have pushed their support to new heights.

Joschka Fischer and Gerhard Schroeder
Four more years together
These elements are reflected in the poll boost Gerhard Schroeder also enjoyed in the final weeks of the campaign.

His handling of the floods disaster in eastern Germany over the summer won him plaudits for his dynamism and swift reaction. But it also raised the whole question of global warming - a quintessential Green issue - in the minds of voters.

Iraq factor

Secondly, Schroeder's pledge that Germany did not support and would not be involved in any attack on Iraq tapped into a broad current of anti-militarism running across generations - an issue which the Greens have, to a large extent, kept in the public eye over the years.

Fischer said on Sunday that the Greens would be modest in their demands during the forthcoming coalition talks.

They had three ministers in the outgoing government - speculation is they will now want four.

But Schroeder's saviours will undoubtedly also want their reward to be reflected in the policies of the new government.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

Gerhard Schroeder

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