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Top Greens step aside after German election decline

Three of the Greens' senior politicians - Claudia Roth, Renate Künast and Jürgen Trittin - have said they will not seek reappointment to top party jobs. The party has pledged a "fresh start" for the 2017 election.

Jürgen Trittin on Tuesday followed in the footsteps of fellow Green party mainstays Claudia Roth and Renate Künast, saying he would not re-apply for his role as joint leader on the parliamentary floor.

"I will not campaign again for a top role in the party," Trittin said on his Twitter account, hours after Roth, and then Künast, made the same announcement.

The Greens traditionally appoint two people - a man and a woman - to the party's top jobs; leading to an even more crowded upper echelon than is already commonplace in Germany's congested political structures.

After scoring 8.4 percent in Sunday's national election - more than 2 percent shy of the 2009 haul and around 7 percent short of mid-term highs in surveys - the Greens had on Monday already announced a full-scale reshuffle of party leadership.

A total of 22 politicians would officially relinquish their posts high in the party, albeit with many of them likely to re-apply for similar roles at the party conference. Trittin, Künast and Roth, however, will not be doing so.

'Fresh start'

"We want to make a fresh start," Roth (pictured above on the left) said in an interview with public broadcaster ARD on Tuesday morning.

"And I think it's also a good signal from me to say this now, as we prepare for the elections in 2017; it makes sense for us to make this new beginning possible."

The long-standing party chair - in the post, albeit with a brief hiatus, since 2001 - also said the party leaders should take some responsibility for the election results. Citing some of the popular opposition stances, for instance a minimum wage and a change in policy on pre-kindergarten childcare, Roth said the parties had failed to translate these proposals into more votes.

Roth said she would like to apply, first within her own party and then in parliament, for the role of deputy speaker of the lower house, the Bundestag. Her Green colleague Katrin Göring-Eckardt, on the party's twin-ticket for the election election, officiated as deputy speaker inside parliament during the past legislative term.

Künast follows suit, shares goal

Renate Künast told the German dpa news agency on Tuesday that she would also not re-apply for a leadership role within the Greens. The parliamentary floor leader is also eying the role as deputy speaker, potentially putting her straight back into competition with Roth.

According to dpa, citing party insiders, Göring-Eckardt expressed a desire to take over Künast's position.

Göring-Eckardt (pictured above on the right), who is also a senior figure within Germany's Protestant church, was something of a surprise winner when the Greens voted last November for their traditional twin-ticket for Sunday's election.

She beat both Roth and Künast to the role, and then stood alongside Jürgen Trittin.

Tax blamed for vote decline

Trittin, considered something of a left-leaning firebrand within the Greens, had come under pressure since the election, with many pointing to him as the "father" of a contentious tax proposal. The party campaigned for a 49-percent tax for people earning 80,000 euros ($108,000) or more per year; many pollsters highlight this as a major reason for the party's pre-election drop in popularity.

A further controversy, linking former party members to calls in the 1980s for some sexual acts between adults and children not to be treated as a criminal offense, did not help the Greens in the polls either.

Despite their election disappointment, the Greens still have an outside chance of becoming the junior coalition partner to Angela Merkel. In the event that a "grand coalition" of Merkel's Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats could not be established, the Greens hold more than enough seats to provide Merkel with a majority.

Such an alliance would not go down well in the conservative heartland of Bavaria. As several Christian Democrats were putting out feelers with the Greens early this week, possibly in a bid to unsettle the Social Democrats in grand coalition negotiations, Bavarian State Premier Horst Seehofer instead told German news magazine Der Spiegel: "I, in any case, will not be conducting such talks, and that's the end of it."

Seehofer mentioned the pedophilia allegation specifically, saying "for me, a line was crossed there."

Trittin also mentioned these comments from the leader of the Bavarian CSU sister party to Merkel's CDU on Tuesday.

"The CSU does not decide on exploratory talks [the first step towards a coalition government]. They will be led by Katrin [Göring-Eckhardt] and myself," Trittin wrote on Twitter.

msh/ipj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)