Germany's resurgent Greens eye Berlin city hall
Germany's opposition Green party, flying high in the polls amid anger at Chancellor Angela Merkel's nuclear policy, appointed one of its leading lights Sunday to run for mayor of Berlin.
The party unanimously nominated 54-year-old Renate Kuenast, a parliamentary group leader of the resurgent ecologist party and former minister, to challenge incumbent Klaus Wowereit for what would be the Greens' first state premiership.
Berlin is both the national capital and one of Germany's 16 federal states. The election is due on September 18 next year.
Spiky-haired and sharp-tongued, the former agriculture minister under Merkel's predecessor as chancellor, the Social-Democrat Gerhard Schroeder, said: "I am counting on victory. I want to be mayor."
Her challenge comes as the Greens have made steady progress in the opinion polls. A country-wide survey for ARD public television Friday showed them at an all-time high with 22 percent support.
Merkel's Christian Union bloc tallied 32 percent while its partners, the pro-business Free Democrats, were stuck at just five percent. The Social-Democrats posted 27 percent.
In Berlin, surveys show the Greens as the strongest party with nearly 30 percent support.
Political analysts said the party's rise has come at the expense of Merkel's centre-right coalition, which has bickered over several issues, including tax policy.
"The Greens are the only rising force in Germany," said political scientist Nils Diederich from Berlin's Free University.
Another analyst, Gero Neugebauer, said the party "had successfully set themselves up as opponents of the Merkel government with a clear profile, especially on the anti-nuclear topic."
Merkel has decided to extend the life of Germany's 17 nuclear reactors, prompting huge protests.
The nuclear issue continued to make headlines on Sunday amid violent clashes between police and activists trying to stop a cargo of radioactive waste on its way from France to Germany.
© 2010 AFP