The German Greens: Challenging the Consensus

The German Greens: Challenging the Consensus

The German Greens: Challenging the Consensus

The German Greens: Challenging the Consensus

Synopsis

This book examines the Greens' contribution to the changing nature of contemporary German local politics and the effect of local political involvement upon the Greens themselves. The author shows how the established 'unpolitical' nature of Germany's local politics has given way to overtly political and confrontational approaches. This has occurred primarily under the influence of the Greens and the 'New Local Politics'. The book appears at an important juncture for the German Greens with questions being posed about their relevance in a post-unification Germany.

Excerpt

The failure of the Greens -- Die Grünen -- to repeat their successes of the 1980s was undoubtedly one of the major surprises of the first elections held in post-unification Germany in December 1990. This electoral rebuke to what had until then been the most successful of Europe's ecological parties confirmed the existence of a growing crisis within the Greens. Indeed, crisis is a term which is often associated with the German Greens. For some commentators, the very emergence of the Greens in the late 1970s symbolised the presence of a crisis within the Federal Republic's established party system. The Greens developed at a time when the concentration of electoral support in western Germany's three established parties was at its most pronounced, with only 1 per cent of voters in the 1976 Federal Election voting for parties other than the SPD, CDU/CSU or FDP. For the Federal Republic's youngest age-groups in particular, raised in a favourable economic and social climate and already engaged in more active forms of political involvement in citizens' initiative groups, the Greens appeared to provide a credible alternative to the lacklustre policies and staid organisational structures of the country's traditional political parties. The inability of the established Volksparteien to respond adequately to the growing ecological, social and democratic challenges of the late twentieth century played into the hands of the fledgling political organisation. Germany's stable party system began to open up. When the Greens first secured representation in the Bundestag following the 1983 Federal Election, this was the first time since 1953 that a fourth political party had succeeded in breaking into the established party system and the first time since 1961 that there had been four parliamentary groups in the Bundestag.

To understand the appeal of the Greens in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it is important to emphasise the differences between this new political force and the established party system in western Germany. Electoral participation by the Greens represented the final stage of a process which saw the ecological movement . . .

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