German Greens say state triumphs just the beginning
Germany's triumphant Greens said Monday their historic gains in two crucial state polls were just the start of a campaign that would sweep the country in a "super" election year.
Party leader Cem Ozdemir said the Greens, which rode a wave of fears of nuclear power due to the Japan crisis to claim leadership of their first state government Sunday and make huge gains in another, had the wind at their backs.
"It is obvious that voters are looking to us to play a new role," he told reporters. "We want to give the voters who chose us for the first time a new electoral home."
Co-leader Claudia Roth said the success of the Greens and their likely coalition partners, the Social Democrats, in wealthy Baden-Wuerttemberg, where industrial giants Porsche, Daimler and Bosch are based, was especially promising.
"A Green state premier in Baden-Wuerttemberg, home to the automobile and mechanical engineering industries, will show that you can make a profit with green ideas and that ecology and the economy are not at odds."
She said the Greens aimed to win representation in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania -- the last region where they have no seats -- in September.
Roth was also bullish for the party's prospects in Bremen in a poll in May and the capital Berlin, which also votes in September and could see the Greens capture the helm of their second state legislature.
Founded as an anti-nuclear, ecologist outfit in 1980, the Greens gradually made inroads throughout West Germany state-by-state and served as the junior partners in a Social Democrat-led federal government 1998-2005.
During that time, they wrote legislation that would have mothballed all of Germany's nuclear reactors by around 2020.
However Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right government overturned that decision in 2010 -- a move that came back to haunt her in light of the perilous nuclear accident at Japan's Fukashima plant this month.
Merkel attempted a quick climb-down ahead of the polls and suspended for three months the decision to postpone the planned shutdown of the reactors, four of which are based in Baden-Wuerttemberg.
She also temporarily shut off the country's seven oldest reactors pending a safety review.
But polls indicated that voters saw Merkel's zigzagging as an electoral ploy in a country where fears of a nuclear accident have run high since even before the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
It cost her support in the elections while boosting the Greens, who doubled their score in Baden-Wuerttemberg and tripled it in Rhineland-Palatinate, where they are expected to form a coalition with the Social Democrats.
© 2011 AFP