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Greens Elect Oezdemir as Co-Leader in Historic Vote

Germany's Green Party on Saturday elected Cem Oezdemir as one of its co-leaders, the first time one of Germany's major parties has elevated a child of Turkish immigrants to such a high position.

New Greens Chairman Cem Ozdemir, a Turkish-born German, left, and the Chairwoman Claudia Roth

Oezdemir and Claudia Roth will lead the Green Party into next year's election

Oezdemir received 79.2 per cent of the vote at a party congress. He will co-lead the party with incumbent Claudia Roth, who was re- elected with 82.7 per cent of the vote. The Greens traditionally have two leaders, one male, and one female.

Oezdemir replaces Reinhard Buetikofer, who opted to stop down from his leadership position after six years.

Oezdemir, 42, is the son of Turkish immigrants and was raised in southern Germany. He will be the first ethnic Turk to lead one of Germany's major political parties.

His election is seen by some as a major turning point for the country. Although Turks represent a strong minority in Germany, large portions of their populations are marginalized from mainstream German society.

Many second-generation Turks complain about the difficulty of obtaining German citizenship, even though they have spent their entire lives in Germany.

Oezdemir eventually makes it to party top table

Cem Ozdemir

Oezdemir's political rise was thought to have faltered

Oezdemir is currently a member of the European Parliament and a former member of the German parliament, the Bundestag, where he held a seat from 1994 to 2002. Before that, he was in the state parliament of Baden-Wurttemberg.

However, even though his move into the party's leadership has long been forecast, that is not to say there haven't been stumbling blocks.

In October, the Greens in his home state of Baden Wurttemberg rebuffed his efforts to gain a slot on the party's candidate list for national elections, essentially blocking him from regaining a seat in the German parliament. Roth and other prominent party members already hold Bundestag seats.

He is considered to be in the left-wing of a party that is already well to Germany's left. But commentators have also found him to be pragmatic. His political focus has included questions of German- Turkish relations, migration policy, naturalization policy and German foreign relations.

During the party congress, members also reiterated the support for environmentally-friendly energy policies and warned that the world cannot overcome the financial crisis without also focusing on the environment.

The Greens have been in opposition since 2005 when voters ousted their coalition with the left-of centre Social Democrats in favor of an alliance led by Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats.

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