German Greens coalition to lead state for first time

BERLIN Wed Apr 27, 2011 11:54am EDT

Winfried Kretschmann (L) of the Green Party ''Buendnis 90/ Die Gruenen'' and Nils Schmid of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) present the coalition agreement of a new government in the southern German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg during a news conference in Stuttgart April 27, 2011. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

Winfried Kretschmann (L) of the Green Party ''Buendnis 90/ Die Gruenen'' and Nils Schmid of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) present the coalition agreement of a new government in the southern German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg during a news conference in Stuttgart April 27, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Michaela Rehle

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's Greens party will lead a state for the first time in the country's history after signing a coalition agreement with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) in prosperous Baden-Wuerttemberg on Wednesday.

The environmentalist party and the SPD sealed the coalition deal after knocking Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives from power in the southwestern state in a March 27 election.

They will formally take office on May 12.

"The people voted for change a month ago," said Winfried Kretschmann, 62, who will become the first Greens politician to lead one of Germany's 16 federal states.

"The aim is to have five years of good government in a partnership of equals," he added

The SPD will rank as the junior partner to the Greens after ending one percentage point behind in the vote -- 24.2 percent to 23.2 percent. Kretschmann said he hoped the coalition could be a model for other regional governments.

"We don't want to get caught up constantly trying to chop each other's fingers off," he said, using a term that often describes tension in German coalition governments.

The stability of the first Greens-SPD coalition will also be closely followed nationwide. Polls show the Greens could win another state election in Berlin in September and some analysts wonder if Germany's next leader could be Green.

Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) had ruled Baden-Wuerttemberg for 58 years before they were ousted in a shock defeat on March 27 from the state that is home to major car manufacturers Daimler and Porsche.

Worries about nuclear power following Japan's earthquake and tsunami dominated the state election campaign, mobilizing record numbers of voters for the anti-nuclear Greens.

Merkel, an advocate of nuclear power, reversed course after damage to the Fukushima plant in Japan raised fears in Germany about radiation leaks. She hastily announced plans to temporarily shut down the country's seven oldest nuclear plants.

Analysts say the Baden-Wuerttemberg election result seems likely to accelerate a German shift away from nuclear power even though the country gets nearly a quarter of its electricity from its 17 nuclear reactors.

(Reporting Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Sophie Hares; Reuters messaging: erik.kirschbaum.reuters.com@reuters.net)

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