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German elections Tuesday, 29 September, 1998, 08:01 GMT 09:01 UK
Greens negotiate a path to power
Joschka Fischer
Joschka Fischer: Steering a course between Green ideals and the realities of a coalition
German Elections
At first glance, the German Green Party manifesto is not much different from that of any left-of-centre European political party, balancing social and environmental concerns.

The election manifesto began not with global warming or nuclear power, but with jobs:

"We will create an alliance for jobs, in order to combat unemployment effectively," the party promises, before going on to address social security and education.

And all signs are that the German Green Party has at last found its place in the political mainstream. Social Democrat Chancellor-elect Gerhard Schröder has invited the party to negotiate a coalition. The Green Party leader Joschka Fischer is tipped to become foreign minister in the Schröder cabinet.

"We have fought for a red-green coaltion in a long and tough campaign," Mr Fischer said after the final results were announced on Monday morning.

But the common-sense manifesto and Mr Fischer's support for a coalition conceal the party's internal disarray in the run-up to the elections, when no-one was quite sure who was in control.

Reality bites

The party is divided between the fundamentalists and the realists like Mr Fischer, who is credited with the party's rise from a protest movement to a serious environmental party.

While the manifesto may highlight voter-friendly issues like jobs, it also includes more radical calls for Nato's dissolution, withdrawal of German peacekeepers from Bosnia, and a swathe of taxes on motorists.

The inclusion of these provisions by party hardliners in March this year prompted a cooling in relations with the SPD, and a drop in public support to the extent that some Greens feared they might not make the 5% cut needed to get into parliament.

As the election campaign ended, Mr Fischer made a call for cohesion, which has paid off in terms of getting the party within striking distance of a role in government.

But Mr Fischer's enthusiasm for the coalition is likely to force his party to compromise as it hammers out the terms of the agreement with the Social Democrats in the coming days.

Although he himself was not in the party's anti-Nato faction, the Nato issue will require particularly delicate negotiation if Mr Fischer is to secure the job of foreign minister.

Money makes the world go around

German business is known to be suspicious of the Greens, whose priority on using less energy and consuming fewer products are at odds with the premises of industrial capitalism.

The government runs the risk of alienating affluent Germans if it follows Green proposals such as substantial increases in the price of petrol, a 100km/h speed limit on the country's autobahns, and a restriction on foreign holidays to one per person each year.

On nuclear power, the Greens favour an immediate decommissioning of Germany's nuclear power plants, whereas the social democrats argue for a phased approach.

Observers predict days or even weeks of hard bargaining before the red-green coalition becomes a reality. Although the Greens are at present Mr Schröder's first choice of coalition partner, he is not ruling out alternatives until he is sure that a workable agreement is possible.

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