Greens see Red to win Bonn votes

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The Independent Online
OF ALL the scare stories that Helmut Kohl's party has been spreading about the opposition in these elections, none has been more effective than the "Green peril". "You may think Gerhard Schroder is a reasonable man," runs the not-so-subliminal message. "But have you looked at his coalition partners lately?"

"Red-Green" may be the magic formula for toppling Helmut Kohl in Sunday's elections, but to many voters it spells disaster. Though they have abandoned many of their starry-eyed goals, Petra Kelly's heirs retain their knack for shocking middle Germany.

There was a moment in the summer, when the party was advocating the tripling of petrol prices to the equivalent of pounds 7 a gallon, and simultaneously calling for punitive levies on charter flights to the south.

There is no better way of losing votes in Germany than threatening the two national obsessions: driving and holidays in the sun. Within weeks, the Greens' poll rating plunged from 12 points to six, where it has languished ever since.

In spite of that debacle, the party will again scrape into parliament, with perhaps 6 or 7 per cent of the votes.

Should the Social Democrats emerge with the largest number of seats on Sunday, the Greens will be offering their hand in marriage. Joschka Fischer, the Green parliamentary leader, may become Germany's new foreign minister.

To most Germans, that does not bear thinking about. But in truth, Mr Fischer and his pacifist colleagues would have little problem sending German troops abroad to, say, the Balkans. And in the economic domain, the party has come a long way since its pioneering days 20 years ago. The goal of "zero growth" - economic stagnation for the sake of the environment - is but a distant memory.

What remains of the original dream is the love of bicycles and hatred of cars, unyielding hostility to nuclear power, and the pledge to impose an "environmental tax" on fuel.

Mr Fischer may have trouble controlling his troops in parliament, and could not rely on all of them supporting a Red-Green government. For this reason, it is a common assumption in Germany that a Red-Green coalition would need a majority of greater than 10 to function.

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