Germany's Greens are electing candidates for September's parliamentary elections. With the previously unthinkable idea of a Red-Red-Green coalition gaining traction, the choice is being watched carefully.
Four politicians gave their final pitches at a party meeting in Berlin on Saturday, with party chairwoman Katrin Göring-Eckardt already assured a place on the party's ticket.
She will be joined by one of the following: co-chair Cem Özdemir (R), a Swabian with Turkish roots; Anton Hofreiter (L), a biologist from Bavaria, the parliamentary party chief and the only representative of the left of the party; and the writer Robert Habeck, Environment Minister and Deputy Premier of Schleswig-Holstein.
The results of the party primaries will be announced on January 18, after the party's 60,800 members have cast their votes.
SPD to jump horses?
As the junior partner since 2013 in the so-called Grand Coalition, with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Social Democrats (SPD) are now expected to choose their party chairman, Sigmar Gabriel, to run against Merkel in the election, senior party sources said. Gabriel also serves as German Vice Chancellor and is thus currently Merkel's deputy.
Gabriel previously told "Der Spiegel" magazine that his party would consider forming a three-way coalition with the Greens and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP). A former major player in German politics, the FDP surprisingly failed to gain a single seat in the Bundestag in the 2013 elections for the first time in its seven-decade history. The classical liberal stalwarts may, however, be poised for a comeback in 2017.
The option would be an alternative to an SPD coalition with the Greens and the Left party - the so-called Red-Red-Green coalition - an option favored by the SPD's left wing.
While not ruling out a coalition with the Left Party - a part of which is made up of the reformed successor to former East Germany's Marxist-Leninist SED party - Gabriel questioned whether such a formation would result in a stable government.
"They have to decide whether they want to govern or remain firmly in opposition,” he said.
Combined, the Red-Red-Green parties have 320 seats in the Bundestag, compared with 311 for Merkel's CDU/CSU bloc.
A poll by Infratest Dimap and German broadcaster ARD showed the SPD currently standing with 20 percent of the vote, compared to 37 percent for Merkel's conservative bloc. The Greens and the Left are both hovering at around ten percent.
Changing electoral configurations
In December, the SPD won control of Berlin's city government at the head of a three-way coalition that involves the Left and the Green party. The rise of the rightwing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) could push the parties to put their differences aside in order to combat its appeal.
The Berlin government is the second Red-Red-Green coalition to have ruled one of Germany's 16 regions. The first - in Thuringia in 2014 - is led by the Left rather than the SPD and is seen as such as less of a national precedent than the coalition in Berlin.
With the AfD expected to enter parliament for the first time in 2017 and the FDP likely to return, there could be seven parties in parliament instead of the current five, making a Red-Red-Green majority less likely.
The Greens also pose problems for the SPD with promises to phase out fossil fuels - a bone of contention with the SPD, which has support in coal-mining regions.
jbh/kl (dpa, AFP, Reuters)