The German, Icelandic and New Zealand Green Parties are the only substantial elected green voice on earth. Should the NZ Greens get back in, the global green movement will be watching. Can the NZ Greens live up to their global role model status?
It’s worth checking what happened to the German Greens. They formed in 1979. They opposed pollution, nuclear power, NATO, and industrialisation. They gained support from both protest movements and conservatives. Their four pillars are:
– social justice
– ecological wisdom
– grassroots democracy
Their conservative faction broke away in 1982. In 1983 the Greens got 5.7 of the Federal vote, and 8.3% in 1987, led by Joschka Fischer. They almost got turfed in 1990, but scraped back with a merger.
In 1998 they went into government with the Social Democrats. Almost immediately they were plunged into crisis by the question of NATO action in Kosovo. Huge internal crises, and a long string of local defeats ensued. Then in 2001 some Green MPs refused to back sending the military to Afghanistan. That reinforced the simmering split between the Realos and the Fundis.
But they did get a commitment to eradicate all nuclear plants, LGBT reform, and got key Ministerial positions.
Their next government was in 2008. Full of tough compromises, the Hamburg State coalition collapsed in 2010. While they’ve maintained state representation everywhere, they’ve never recovered nationally from their only time in government 20 years ago.
The NZ Greens have tasted influence through Confidence and Supply agreements. The Greens have been mayors and councillors here. But never in government.
The lessons from the German Greens are hard and real. The comparisons are not parallel but they are stark. Should the NZ Greens get back in, and should they be invited into power, they will face tests from the world far greater than that which Metiria Turei started – which they failed.
The NZ Greens must first survive, then choose carefully if they want power, then prepare to take good gains at great cost.