Green light fades for Germany's red alliance

The wedding vows have barely been exchanged. Already, though, the rows have begun. Greens and Social Democrats have finally agreed to the creation of a ruling coalition in Germany's most populous state, but neither party yesterday showed much enthusiasm for the deal that has been struck.

Johannes Rau, the veteran Social Democrat (SPD) Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's industrial heartland, has not hidden his sullen mood after the formation of a "red-green" coalition which he will now lead. Mr Rau, 64, grumbled that he could imagine "a nicer way of spending my twilight years".

But the Greens are equally unhappy about the compromise that has been struck, where they can boast of few clear victories over the SPD. As Mr Rau himself noted, there is an "unmistakable Social Democrat signature" on the 200-page coalition agreement.

Rudolf Scharping, national leader of the SPD - in opposition, in Bonn - talked yesterday of a "good signal" being sent by the agreement, which paves the way for the creation of an SPD-Green regional government, probably next week. But not all share Mr Scharping's optimism. Critics talked of a "nonsensical" compromise.

In particular, the Greens failed to force the SPD to cancel plans for further open-cast mining at Garzweiler, south-west of Dusseldorf. Instead, a decision on the highly controversial project has been deferred - with the result that both sides now have reason for complaint.

Miners, part of the SPD's traditional core electorate, are angry that there is no clear commitment to go ahead with Garzweiler. Thousands gathered at the weekend to attack Mr Rau as a "Judas". Their slogan declared: "Green and red - miners dead." Equally, however, the Greens have been forced to "swallow toads", as they themselves put it. As one angry Green noted, "You can't be a little bit pregnant - and you can't have a little bit of Garzweiler, either."

For both sides, one problem during the six-week negotiations has been that they needed to impress their own voters, regionally and nationally, by showing that they were ready to stand up for their own principles. The Greens, who had robbed the Social Democrats of their absolute majority in North Rhine-Westphalia, did not want to be seen as an easy touch for the SPD. Equally, the SPD, which did not want to offend its traditional clientele with the prospect of job losses, was wary of cosying up to the Greens. Now the question is whether the shotgun marriage (for the SPD, at least), will turn into something more stable, or whether it will be filled with constant recriminations.

The participation of the Greens in the North Rhine-Westphalian coalition in Dusseldorf is seen as a possible model for a future federal government in Bonn, to replace the existing Christian Democrat-led coalition. If the coalition in Dusseldorf works well, this will be bad news for Helmut Kohl and his government. Equally, however, if the Dusseldorf coalition falls apart - Helmut Linssen, the leading Christian Democrat in the region, said yesterday there was "no way" that the coalition would survive - then the voters' inclination to repeat the experiment, in Bonn, will be reduced.

The coalition has been created at a time when Mr Scharping is under considerable pressure, not least from his main rival, Gerhard Schroder, who makes no secret of his own belief that he could do the job better than Mr Scharping. Mr Schroder's supporters see Mr Scharping as lacklustre; Mr Scharping's supporters see Mr Schroder as a brash big-mouth.

Mr Schroder has recently shown as much loyalty to Mr Scharping as has Michael Portillo to John Major. Mr Scharping's current personal ratings are disastrous. It is, however, unclear whether the increasingly irritated Mr Scharping would want to challenge his critics head-on. A put-up-or- shut-up resignation, a la Major, does not look likely.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Part Time

£10500 - £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Part Time Accounts Assistant ...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company supply, install an...

Tradewind Recruitment: Reception Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: An excellent three form entry scho...

The Green Recruitment Company: Commercial Construction Manager

£65000 Per Annum bonus & benefits package: The Green Recruitment Company: The ...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'