Tony Paterson: Germany's Greens look to victory, of a sort

Campaign trail

The crowd of fortysomething Berliners stood quaffing from mugs of organically brewed beer, listening intently to the Green Party's firebrand, Jürgen Trittin, as he grew hoarse from hurling a seemingly endless chain of insults at Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"I watched Merkel and her opponent on television when they had their famous so-called duel," he shouted at the crowd. "It wasn't a duel; it was like watching two people throw cotton wool balls at each other. It was an insult to democracy."

The Green Party supporters in Berlin's middle-class Schöneberg district for one of the party's final rallies before tomorrow's general election, loved the performance and furiously waved placards bearing the slogan "Make Sunday Green". Mr Trittin, 55, who served as environment minister in Gerhard Schröder's red-green coalition government five years ago, pressed all the right buttons with the crowd.

The Greens were the only party serious about ending Germany's reliance on nuclear power, the only party in favour of a speed limit on autobahns, the only party really committed to a massive investment in alternative energy that could provide an estimated one million new jobs.

"Vote Green to make sure that something happens" is the party's election slogan and, if the polls are right, millions of Germans will do so tomorrow: despite losing the hugely popular Joschka Fischer from the leadership, the Greens are set to secure more than 10 per cent of the vote in their best general election performance since the party was founded in the early 1980s.

But the Greens' chances of entering government after the poll remain slim. Their natural coalition partners, the Social Democrats, are unlikely to win enough votes to make a repeat of the red-green coalition a workable option. The Greens have also ruled out their other option – the possibility of forming a three-party coalition with Ms Merkel's conservatives and the liberal Free Democrats – because they are ideologically too opposed .

Yet tactical voting was not on the minds of many Green supporters at Mr Trittin's rally. "I'm only going to vote for a party which has the right environmental priorities, so it's got to be Green," said Anna Michels, a 27-year-old biologist.