Changing Colors

The CDU in Baden-Wuerttemberg is conducting negotiations with the Greens in that state to decide if the two parties should form a coalition government. If they do, it will be the first “black-green” coalition at the state level, and another sign of fluidity in Germany’s post-reunification party politics.

Update: Maybe next time. The CDU and FDP will, according to reports today, continue the coalition that has run the southwest for the last 10 years. Germany changes slowly.

For much of the Federal Republic’s comparatively short history, the party landscape was dominated by the Social Democrats (SPD), a party nearly 75 years older than the state it was competing to rule in, the Christian Democrats (CDU-CSU) and the Free Democrats (FDP). The FDP generally held the balance of power and was regarded as the permanent party of government. The rise of the Greens in the early 1980s knocked this balance off-kilter; eventually, however, Germany settled into something of a two-part system, in which the FDP lined up with the CDU-CSU and the Greens with the SPD. Red-Green only took power at the national level in 1998, at which time reunification and the persistence of the post-communist PDS had already loosened the system. (Post-communist parties have, of course, persisted in practically every formerly communist country, but Germany was originally thought to be different.)

The Greens are no longer as ‘left’ as they once were, and the CDU-CSU has never been quite as ‘right’ as observers outside Germany tend to think. The first significant black-green coalition at the municipal level came in Muelheim/Ruhr and ruled from 1994 to 1999. Black-green coalitions have also governed in Saarbrucken and Cologne. Frankfurt is currently run by a four-party coalition; black-green may take charge there this month as well.

Black-green would be a milestone at the state level, particularly in the growing and prosperous state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

And at the national level? Governing with more than one of the major parties certainly increases the Greens’ options…

6 thoughts on “Changing Colors

  1. Interesting possible parallel with the courting of a more “conservative” ecologist vote by the Cameronian tories in the UK

  2. German political scientists have been talking about a distinction, between “strukturkonservativismus” and “wertkonservativismus” – “conservatism of structures” and “conservatism of values”, that theoretically would allow for the environment to be something to be conserved by conservatives alongside traditions, authority, nationality and such, for many years, but the actual creature is rarely if ever seen in the wild.

    This is complicated by the fact that some very conservative conservatives in Austria (Andreas Mölzer for example) like to describe themselves as “wertkonservativ” despite not caring about the environment and being economically more “strukturkonservativ”.

    It’s probably true, though, that any such tendency would probably go in for conservation (fluffy bunnies and National Trust properties) rather than environmentalism, which these days is rather irrelevant and unlikely to appeal to the German green vote, which is used to more solid fare.

  3. The biggest challenge for the Black-Green coaltion to succeed will be their ability to find consensus around immigration issues and “Multi-Kulti”. The CDU seems to be embracing a policy of intolerance as the recent attempts in Baden-Wuerttemberg to impose an “attitude test” (Gesinnungstest)that is targeted towards Muslims. This cultural intolerance has always been scorned by the Greens. It will be interesting to see how they deal with it.

  4. One of the things that has come out in the black-green speculation is that the CDU-CSU are looking for ways to win over voters who live in cities. Having a reality-based approach to immigration would certainly be part of that.

    On the other hand, E. Stoiber has been in the news these last couple of days calling for ensuring that children have a sufficient grasp of German before they enter school. Judging from what I hear in the Bavarian countryside, this could be a real problem. Though not, perhaps, in the way that Stoiber imagines…

  5. @David: That’s roughly what I kept saying about the “Jamaican coalition” back in the German elections. The German right and the Greens have a big culture gap between them – the Greens wouldn’t introduce a “gesinnungstest” in a fit, in fact they’d call you a nazi for suggesting it. The need for consensus on multiculti is really a need for consensus on culti.

    @Doug: heheheh. goood snark!

  6. It should be pointed out that the future of the Greens is not without serious clouds. It is not obvious that they will survive. Their track records in the last five years has been bad. They are strong only where they are not needed. In the state of BW they are not an additional party, but slowly eroding away the SPD.

    The current emphasis on economics in politics is hurting them and will keep doing so.

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