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Greens grassroots members to elect new co-chairs

The Greens are set to become the first political party in Germany to put the decision about who should lead them into a general election to a vote by their membership. The decision came at a meeting in Berlin on Sunday.

The overwhelming majority of the around 80 delegates, who took part in the conference in the German capital, supported the proposal put forward by the party's executive. There was just one vote against the plan, and one abstention.

"I am sure that the will contribute to the further development of the democratic process," said the Greens' federal manager, Steffi Lemke. "This would also be a pretty good way to start the campaign," she added.

Among those who have already announced their intention to run for the dual-candidacy, which must include a woman, are parliamentary party co-leaders Renate Künast and Jürgen Trittin, as well as co-party leader Claudia Roth and deputy president of the Bundestag Katrin Göring-Eckhardt.

The other co-leader, Cem Özdemir, said he expected the move to help mobilize the party's almost 60,000 members.

"A direct vote will have the effect of reminding every individual member about the Bundestag election," Özdemir said.

Preparations for the leadership vote were to begin immediately, and those wanting to throw their hats into the ring have until September 16 to get their name onto the list of candidates. Members are to receive their ballots by mail in the second week of October, and will have to return their filled-out ballots by the end of next month.

The Greens are hoping to win enough support to help unseat the center-right government, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, in the next general election, in about a year's time. They were previously part of the center-left government led by former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and his Social Democrats.

pfd/jr (dpa, AFP)