Green allies of Schroder in bitter civil war

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The Independent Online
SOMEHOW, THINGS are going from bad to worse for Gerhard Schroder's administration. His own party stood united yesterday, shocked into silence by their worst battering from the German voters since the war, and still his government was falling apart.

The Greens, paragons of self-discipline in the past few weeks compared with the squabbling Social Democrats, can hold their peace no longer. On the cusp of their own debacle in the Saxony regional election - which matches the setbacks suffered by their "Red" coalition partners - they chose yesterday to declare war on themselves.

Joschka Fischer, the Foreign Minister who is almost universally regarded as his party's greatest asset, seized the moment to grab control. He had let it be known through the media that the party's other leaders were letting down the Greens. In true Gaullist style, he humbly offered his services, provided certain heads would roll.

In a Berlin hotel, the party executive met yesterday to discuss Mr Fischer's proposals. The debate inevitably turned into a blazing row, with one of the two heads refusing to share the platform with him.

The battle was fought on many fronts: Realos versus Fundis; men against women; professional politicians against starry-eyed ecologists. Ultimately, the future of the former protest movement was at issue, and although Mr Fischer - male, Realo, clinically professional - was ahead at the end, the price of his victory might be pulling out of the government.

Mr Fischer wanted the removal of the Greens' two co-leaders, Gunda Rostel and Antje Radcke. He and Ms Rostel made up afterwards, but Ms Radcke did not. Separately, the two women confirmed that the executive had backed Mr Fischer's proposals for "changes in personnel and policy content".

The Foreign Minister blames the amateurish party machinery for the election losses. On Sunday, the Greens notched up their worst result yet, gaining little more than 2 per cent of the votes in Saxony - Ms Rostel's home state. That leaves the Greens as nothing more than a minor curiosity in the east.

"We need a policy renewal," Mr Fischer declared yesterday. The party must redefine itself in areas where severe contradictions have arisen between its stated objectives and its government commitments. Especially in defence, economics and ecology, the Greens must think anew, he concluded. A special congress is to be held, reopening old wounds.

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