Germany's Greens open to new coalition options
BERLIN Jan 17 (Reuters) - Germany's Greens said on Tuesday they planned to run independently in next year's election, but were open to new coalition options with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives who will likely remain the strongest party.
Cem Oezdemir, co-chairman of Germany's third largest party with about 16 percent backing in recent opinion polls, said that their centre-left allies the Social Democrats (SPD) would probably not win enough to form a SPD-Greens coalition.
He told foreign journalists that means the Greens have to be open to other options, such as with Merkel's conservatives, if they want to return to power after they ruled with the SPD from 1998 to 2005.
"It's an illusion to believe the SPD will overtake the conservatives and I don't see Merkel making any big mistakes between now and 2013 that would change that," Oezdemir said. "It's hard to see SPD-Greens winning a majority.
"We would be foolish not to be open to other coalition options," he said, but quickly added the SPD remained the Greens' preferred option.
The SPD has hovered around 25 percent in opinion polls for most of the last two years. Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Christian Social Union (CSU) sister party have held steady around 34 percent while their coalition partners, the Free Democrats (FPD) have fallen to about 3 percent.
Thus, neither the ruling centre-right bloc of CDU/CSU and FDP nor the SPD and Greens would have enough for a coalition. That could lead to another grand coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD or a possible CDU/CSU coalition with the Greens.
"The SPD has been talking about another SPD-Greens coalition but the SPD hasn't been able to recover very far from the 23 percent they won in the 2009 election to a level over 30 percent," he said.
Oezdemir, the leader of the Greens' pragmatic wing known as the "Realos", said his party would run an independent campaign in 2013 rather than running together with the SPD, to avoid the risk of a joint centre-left campaign just helping the SPD into a "Grand Coalition" with the conservatives.
"If we want to see the centre left defeated, we have to emphasize how we are different to the SPD," he said. "We will run a Greens campaign in 2013, not a SPD-Greens campaign."
Oezdemir said the rise of the Pirate Party, who ran an eccentric campaign for internet freedom, had hurt the Greens in the 2011 city-state election in Berlin. But the environmentalist party would learn from the mistakes in that campaign, he said.
"The problem in Berlin was that our campaign was boring," he said. "We can never allow the Greens to be boring. That's the worst thing you can say about the Greens. The Pirates ran a more exciting campaign in Berlin. We'll learn from that experience."