It would be a tantalizing prospect and a dream come true for Germany's Green party. What could better crown the slow but seemingly inexorable climb to national prominence over the last three decades than an independent Green politician steering Germany as chancellor?
A representative survey conducted by the Emnid polling institute last Thursday and published Sunday in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper indicated that the German electorate may be more open to the idea than previously thought.
A coalition of the Greens and center-left Social Democrats (SPD) would garner 47 percent of the vote if elections were held now - enough to form a majority in parliament, the survey found. The poll also showed that for the first time in German politics, the Greens - not the SPD - would choose the chancellor as the lead party with 24 percent of the vote compared to the SPD's 23 percent.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), however, led the poll's results by grabbing 32 percent of the vote. The free-market liberal FDP, currently the junior member in Merkel's governing coalition, earned 5 percent of the vote, while the Left party polled at 9 percent.
Asked which Green politician they would prefer as chancellor, 17 percent favored former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, followed by 16 percent and 14 percent respectively for Green co-parliamentary leaders Jürgen Trittin and Renate Künast. Thirteen percent tipped co-party leader Cem Özdemir for the post, while 8 percent chose co-chairwoman, Claudia Roth.
Fischer said "he felt honored" to be considered, but added that he was not interested in the job and ruled out a return to politics.
Sharpening the Green profile
The recent success of the Greens at the ballot box has triggered an inner-party debate on how to respond to this fresh surge in popularity.
The party's left wing, led by Trittin, has called for a clear signal that it supports a coalition with the Social Democrats, while the party's right wing, under Özdemir, has urged a further opening toward the political middle.
Künast urged the party to stick to its independent course and conduct "future election campaigns with confidence and self-reliance," even if it shared ideological common ground with the SPD.
One CSU member said he expected Greens to dominate the SPD over the long term.
"The Greens will stay ahead of the Social Democrats and the process of disintegration in the SPD will continue," CSU General Secretary Alexander Dobrindt said.
The Social Democrats, however, are not convinced. SPD parliamentary leader Frank-Walter Steinmeier forecast the end of the Green upswing in the not-too-distant future.
"We will not have a Green chancellor in 2013, not matter how much you write about it," Steinmeier told journalists.
SPD party head Sigmar Gabriel said he saw no real chance for a Green chancellor because there were a lot of conservative currents inside the Green party which were sympathetic to Merkel's CDU.
Suggesting that the Greens have no working class background, he said many in the Green party "have no interest in social issues because they are high earners and have good upbringings." The Greens, he added, were "the new liberal party - far better than the Free Democrats - and quite capable of linking up with the CDU."
Gabriel admitted that he had no problem with a strong Green party because "after all, the SPD wants to govern with them."
Germany's next parliamentary election is scheduled for 2013.
Author: Gregg Benzow (dpa, ap AFP)
Editor: Sean Sinico