Air Date: Week of October 2, 1998
In Germany, a new political coalition is making history. After last month's elections, the Social Democrats led by Gerhard Schröeder are being asked to form a government. To have a majority Mr. Schroeder is reaching out to the Green Party. If the talks underway are successful, Germany will become the first major international power with Green Party representation in the upper reaches of government. From Cologne, Alexa Dvorson reports on the development of what’s being called the "red- green" coalition.
CURWOOD: In Germany a new political coalition is making history. After last month's elections the Social Democrats, led by Gerhard Schröder, are being asked to form a government. To have a majority, Mr. Schröder is reaching out to the Green Party. If the talks underway are successful, and most expect they will be, Germany will become the first major international power with Green Party representation in the upper reaches of government. From Cologne, Alexa Dvorson reports on the development of what's being called the Red-Green coalition.
FISCHER: (speaks in German to a cheering crowd)
DVORSON: "Today is a day many of us have worked toward for the last 16 years," leader Joscha Fischer told his euphoric supporters on election night. "The era of Helmut Kohl is definitely at an end."
(Cheering and applause continue)
DVORSON: The Green Party won only 6-1/2% of the vote, but that was enough to help the Social Democrats secure a necessary majority in Parliament and pave the way for a coalition in which the Greens hope to hold 4 key posts, including the environment and foreign ministries.
SCHRÖDER: (Speaks in German)
DVORSON: "There are unusually high expectations," Chancellor-elect Gerhard Schröder says, "and I'll do everything possible to fulfill them." The first test of the so-called Red-Green Coalition may come with the proposed Alliance for Jobs, a roundtable of unions, industry, and government, to tackle Germany's double-digit unemployment. While the Greens will stand by their agenda to introduce an energy tax and more rights for immigrants, political editor Sybille Quennet at the Cologne Daily Stadt-Anzeiger says these Green Party demands might have to take a back seat for now.
QUENNET: Of course it's a revolution that the Greens will be part of the government, and there will be some change. But Schröder always told that economics and business would come first, that jobs jobs jobs is the main problem. So I think the time for experiments has not yet come. Unemployment is much more important nowadays than any environmental problem. Any.
DVORSON: Although some polls suggest most Germans don't relish a Red-Green coalition, this was a typical response on the streets just after the election.
WOMAN: Wunderbar. Wunderbar! (Wonderful)
DVORSON: The curiosity index is high. For once, the unknowns far outweigh the givens. Will the Greens overcome their internal bickering and win credibility as governing partners? Or will they sell out on their principal values just to share power? Will the Social Democrats' broad ranks carry out tax and labor reforms? And can such moves be environmentally friendly enough to satisfy the Greens? Sybille Quennet will be among those watching closely.
QUENNET: In the coalition between Reds and Greens, it will be very interesting to see how they deal with the nuclear politics. Because Greens, of course, their voters will always opt for shutting down all nuclear plants as quick as possible. And Schröder, as he is a businessman as well, will have problems to do that. The fact that the Greens lost votes will make them weaker than they expected, maybe. So they have to prove that they are able to be in a government for 4 years. So, in the end, I think Schröder can force them to do things which they don't like at all.
DVORSON: With the new government expected to be formed this month, the Social Democrats promise a successful shift away from 16 years of conservative rule. Germany's stability-loving population has never romanced about risks. But in this unprecedented election result, the postwar generation of Europe's strongest state has flexed its muscles, and the rest of the continent will be eyeing the outcome. For Living on Earth, this is Alexa Dvorson in Cologne.
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