German Greens target right in election plan
WIESBADEN - Germany\'s junior coalition party, the Greens, on the weekend set out policies they hope will claw them back into third place by a general election in September and keep Germany from shifting to the right.
Six months after fiercely debating whether to abandon their Social Democrat partners over the war in Afghanistan, the Greens have found new unity to try to avoid being voted out of office.
On the weekend, their broadsides were not aimed at each other or the Social Democrats but at resurgent conservatives.
\"Europe must not shift to the right on September 22,\" co-leader Claudia Roth told around 750 delegates gathered in the picturesque western German spa town Wiesbaden. \"We want to return to parliament stronger and we will do so.\"
Roth spoke a day before France elects its president from either centre-right incumbent Jacques Chirac or anti-immigrant candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Germans vote in a general election on September 22 and opinion polls show only 40 percent of the electorate back the current centre-left \"Red-Green\" coalition. The four million jobless and strikes starting on Monday have cast a pall over Schroeder\'s government.
Polls suggest that if the election were held this Sunday, Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber would replace Gerhard Schroeder as chancellor, leading a centre-right government of his Christian Democrats and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP).
Roth described Stoiber as a hypocrite and a populist who wanted to roll back reform and put women back in the kitchen.
EIGHT PERCENT TARGET
The Greens hope to gain eight percent of the vote compared to the 6.7 percent they won at the last general election four years ago. They are fetching around six and seven percent support in polls, behind the FDP\'s 10 percent.
The Greens message on the weekend was \"Green works\", citing policies to phase out nuclear power, raise energy tax and legalise same-sex marriages.
In the next four years, the party promises a further shift to renewable energy sources, more child care, better integration of immigrants, equality for women and job creation through green initiatives. They avoided specifying by how much they would raise the politically sensitive energy tax.
In November, the Greens faced protest as they debated sending troops to Afghanistan. They eventually backed their leaders\' pro-deployment stance and averted the collapse of Schroeder\'s coalition government.
On the weekend, less than five months before the general election, there was little sign of dissent.
\"Eight percent will be a real push, but I\'m optimistic we can be in government again,\" said delegate Karl Kneip.
Outside the conference hall, stalls extolled the virtues of an end to nuclear power, a future of electric cars and environmentally friendly paint.
\"Hash makes you happy\", read one poster.
Others promoted textiles made from nettles, recycled picture frames and the little-used international language Esperanto.
To prove Greens have other priorities too, organisers scheduled a late afternoon break to allow football fans to see the climax of the German soccer season on conference screens.
Story by Philip Blenkinsop
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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