For the first time since its founding three decades ago, a poll suggests the German Green party has overtaken the Social Democrats in popularity, bolstering the Greens' claim that they are the main opposition party.
The results were the best yet for the Greens
The 30-year-old Green Party in Germany appeared to have broken a major barrier on Wednesday as a poll suggested it has surpassed the older Social Democratics as the country's most popular opposition party.
The poll, conducted by Berlin-based pollster Forsa and sponsored by Stern magazine and private broadcaster RTL, found that 24 percent of Germans would vote for the Greens in an election, up one percentage point from last week. The Social Democrats (SPD) dropped two points to 23 percent.
The ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) picked up one more point with 31 percent, while their junior-partner Free Democrats (FDP) took 5 percent. The Left Party received 10 percent. The results were based on responses from 2,501 German voters interviewed between Sept. 27 and Oct. 1.
The Greens may have benefitted from anti-nuclear sentiment
Gaining support by default
Forsa chief Manfred Guellner told Stern that the SPD was focusing on the wrong issues. For example the criticism of the government's minimal 5-euro increase in monthly welfare payments appears to be less important to former SPD supporters in the middle class.
"The Greens are profiting from weaknesses of the other parties," he said. "They're gaining the deserters from the SPD, but also from the CDU."
He added that the Greens have also benefitted from the leadership of Renate Kuenast and Juergen Tritten, chief and deputy chairs of the Greens in parliament respectively.
Several other opinion research institutions have found national support for the Greens to be somewhat lower, just below the SPD around 20 percent. But many polls suggest the Greens are ahead of the SPD in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg and in Berlin - where they appear to be the strongest party.
Not an SPD 'satellite or splinter group'
Green Party chief Claudia Roth pointed to the poll as evidence that the party has broken out of its previous role on the sidelines and is becoming a major player in German politics on par with the SPD and CDU.
Claudia Roth and co-chief Cem Oezdemir have reason to celebrate
"The time of being the 'junior partners' is over," she told daily newspaper Rheinische Post. "Some former SPD supporters still have not yet understood that we are not a satellite or splinter group from them."
Meanwhile the SPD's parliamentary chief Thomas Oppermann said the Greens have benefitted from highly emotional issues for Germans, like the government's proposal to extend the lifespan of Germany's nuclear power plants.
"The anti-nuclear mobilization has paid off for the Greens," he said, even when the SPD's criticism of nuclear energy has been just as intense.
Author: Andrew Bowen (AFP/dpa/dapd)
Editor: Nancy Isenson