In a historic development, Winfried Kretschmann is set to become the first Green Minister-President of a German state. The German Green Party has emerged as the senior partner in a coalition with the Social Democratic Party that has captured the state assembly or Landtag in Baden-Württemberg. The coalition defeated the conservative incumbent, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which had led the government of the very wealthy province for almost 58 years. On a turnout of 66 per cent, the Greens more than doubled their 2006 vote-share to 24 per cent, which gave them 36 seats. The CDU remains the biggest single party with 60 seats, but the new alliance will have a majority of four over the bloc formed by the CDU and its ally, the Free Democrat Party (FDP), which lost eight of its 15 seats. Further, the CDU-FDP share of seats in the powerful federal upper chamber, the Bundesrat, will fall in proportion to their regional losses — and Mr. Kretschmann will also have a Bundesrat vote. One consequence is that the CDU national leader and federal Chancellor Angela Merkel will find it even harder to get legislation passed.

Ms Merkel has blamed her party's losses on the stream of bad news from the wrecked Japanese nuclear plant at Fukushima. The Chancellor lost a lot of credibility by announcing a 12-year extension to the life of all 17 German nuclear plants and then doing a U-turn post-Fukushima to state that seven plants built before 1980 would be closed down for three months. But German public opposition to nuclear power, although strong and of long standing, forms only a part of the Greens' strength. Stuttgart, the capital of Baden-Württemberg, has been the focus of controversy over a multi-billion-euro plan to redevelop the central station as part of a high-speed rail link across Europe. The plan, called Stuttgart 21, catalysed a feeling among ordinary people that they were being subordinated to big business; after the election, the national rail company Deutsche Bahn suspended the project. But the news for the Chancellor is even worse. Voters across Germany are deserting the pro-market conservative and Right parties. The rising political stock of the Greens was reflected in a tripled vote-share of 15.4 per cent in Rhineland-Palatinate, which also elected a new assembly on March 27. In this contest, the FDP did not even get the 5 per cent needed for one seat. The most significant implication seems to be that ordinary German voters now want to address concerns and issues very different from those of the mainstream parties. The Greens have an unprecedented chance to initiate significant changes in the style and substance of German politics.

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