German Greens surf anti-nuclear wave

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The ecologist Green party in Germany is reaping the fruits of its anti-nuclear stance, analysts say, as it eyes power in a state governed by Chancellor Angela Merkel's party since 1953.

Heading into Sunday's election in the wealthy state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, the resurgent Greens were polling 20 percent nationally, according to a recent Forsa survey, double their score at the last general election in late 2009.

And they are bidding to make history on Sunday by handing Germany its first Green state premier, if they can win enough votes in coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD) to knock Merkel's conservatives off their perch.

Another election the same day, in Rhineland-Palatinate in the west, could see the Greens enter the state parliament and force the governing SPD into a coalition with them.

"This year is definitely going to see a peak in the development of the Greens in Germany," Nils Diederich, a political scientist at the Free University in Berlin, told AFP.

"Everyone know they are against nuclear," he added.

The Greens are gaining from what is being seen as a humiliating climb-down by Merkel on nuclear policy in Europe's top economy in the wake of the crisis at reactors in Japan caused by a devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Last week, she pulled the plug on seven of the country's oldest reactors pending safety checks and announced a three-month moratorium on extending nuclear power in a country where polls show it is generally unpopular.

"It's clear the moratorium on nuclear reactors has hurt" the credibility of the Christian Democrats (CDU), Merkel's party, said Manfred Guellner, a pollster at Forsa.

The influential Spiegel magazine said that the idea of Merkel, often accused of being in thrall to the nuclear lobby, turning her back on atomic power was "like the pope supporting the pill."

Diederich said the Greens were also seeing the rewards of a more prosperous Germany that allowed young voters to vote with their political hearts, rather than their economic heads.

For the young generation, "which has grown up in an age of plenty, questions of money have become secondary, allowing them to be more idealistic" and concentrate on topics the Greens hold dear, such as the environment, he said.

The Greens hold more political sway in Germany than in most other European countries and were in power nationally between 1998 and 2005 under Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats.

And a historic victory in Baden-Wuerttemberg, in CDU hands since Merkel was born, could prompt tremors nationwide, political scientist Werner Patzelt told Thursday's edition of business daily Handelsblatt.

"If the CDU loses power in the state, there would be "another dark cloud in the chancellor's increasingly gloomy sky," said Patzelt.

© 2011 AFP

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