January 8, 2018 / 1:48 PM / 10 months ago

Change of guard for Germany's Greens as 'Jamaica' leaders bow out

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s environmentalist Greens, still reeling from the collapse of coalition negotiations last year, are set for a shake-up at the top after their leaders both said they would not stand for re-election.

FILE PHOTO: Simone Peter and Cem Ozdemir of the Green party talk to German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin, Germany, November 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jesco Denzel/BPA/Handout via REUTERS

The reshuffle follows the failure in November of three-way “Jamaica” talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc, the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP). The “Jamaica” moniker came from the official colors of the three parties that combine to make up that country’s flag.

The Greens, who got 8.9 percent in September’s vote, still have an outside chance of getting into government - either in a two-way tie-up with the conservatives or in a Jamaica coalition, if current talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats (SPD) fail.

Cem Ozdemir, a 52-year-old politician of Turkish origin who was touted as a potential foreign minister if the Jamaica talks succeeded, said he did not stand a chance in a leadership vote so he would not attempt to extend his tenure.

“Ultimately it became clear to me that what I offer didn’t have enough support in the parliamentary fraction at the moment - I obviously don’t have a majority and I must accept that,” he told newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

His co-leader, 52-year-old Simone Peter - who belongs to the party’s leftist wing, also said she would not run for re-election after Anja Piel, another leftist member, said she would stand.

Other candidates include 48-year-old Robert Habeck, a popular regional environment minister, and 37-year-old Annalena Baerbock, a member of the national parliament. Both of them are considered to be in the party’s pragmatic wing.

The Greens tend to choose a man and a woman as co-leaders, with one coming from the pragmatic wing while the other comes from the “fundamentalist” leftist wing.

Ozdemir and Peter were largely responsible for leading the Jamaica coalition negotiations for the Greens - talks which met with widespread scepticism among the party’s grassroots.

The Greens, which once styled themselves as an “anti-party party”, have disappointed some voters by shifting towards the centre, with some complaining they have become too normal and boring. Their environmentalist agenda becoming mainstream has deprived them of a unique selling point.

In an opinion piece, the daily Die Welt wrote that the leadership turnover would inject some life into what was “until half a year ago considered the topsy-turvy house of German politics that was fit for demolition”.

But it suggested the outlook was not bright. “Past experience shows that vibrancy in the Greens rapidly leads to arguments.”

Additional reporting by Markus Wacket; writing by Michelle Martin; editing by Mark Heinrich

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