Green party patriarch Joschka Fischer shocked both supporters and opponents Tuesday with the news that he would not continue leading the Green party should the party be sitting in the opposition in the next Bundestag.
Joschka Fischer's departure was an emotional moment for all
The Green MPs had expected an uneventful meeting during which the parliamentary group chiefs would congratulate the party on its showing at the polls, welcome new members of parliament and thank those who had not been reelected for their committed service.
Fischer did find the words to laud his party's achievements. Then, changing the tone with, "and now a personal word," Fischer dropped the politicial bomb on an unsuspecting room.
"I want my freedom back," Fischer told the Green Bundestag parliamentary group in a dramatic tone behind closed doors. Witnesses in the chamber reportered that top politicians in the Green parliamentary group were brought to tears by Fischer's rousing speech.
Power exchanged for freedom
Fischer tells reporters the news
As the red-green chapter was now history, Fischer said it was time for a new generation of Green leaders to take the reigns. After 20 years, he said he was ready to exchange power for freedom, an unforseen announcement from one who has the reputation of a power-hungry politician.
Fischer made clear that he would remain at the head of his party only under the most extreme circumstances. As far as he was concerned, it didn't make any sense for the Greens to be in any of the possible governing coalitions under discussion. Still, he said he would continue to take part in the negotiations, as long as it had to do with governing.
Following his announcement, the Green MPs celebrated Fischer with a standing ovation lasting minutes. The extraordinary orator is valued by his party as indispensible. Many see Fischer as part and parcel of the Greens, and cannot fathom the party without his leadership.
Avoiding the conduct of Chancellor Kohl
Two symbols of the Green party: Joschka and sunflowers
In stepping back from the top position in the party, Fischer said he was avoiding the fashion in which former chancellor Helmut Kohl continued to lurk about his party, attempting to exert influence though his time had passed. He would not "accompany the party silently from the back rows," Fischer said.
Though he will be relinquishing his post as foreign minister and symbolic leader of the Greens, Fischer does not plan to completely retire from politics quite yet. The 57-year-old legend will continue to sit in the Bundestag as a regular representative.
The end of the Fischer-era will be the opening of another for some other Green politician, though which one it will be still remains open. A scramble for the co-chief position of the Bundestag parliamentary group has already begun, with Consumer Protection Minister Renate Künast and Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin challenging the incumbent parliamentary group chiefs Katrin Göring-Eckhardt and Krista Sager.