Green Party

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Green Parties are hard-left political parties using the banner of environmental issues as their banner. These issues include environmentalism, reliance on grassroots democracy, nonviolence, and social justice causes, including those related to the rights of indigenous peoples, although this is disputed given that Green Parties have open-door immigration policies. "Greens" supposedly believe that all these issues are inherently related to ecological, social, and human bodily health.

Definitions

The distinction is very often made between "green parties" (lower-case letters) and "Green Parties" (capital letters). Any party, faction, or politician may be labeled "green" if it emphasizes environmental causes. Indeed, the term may even be used as a verb: it is not uncommon to hear of "greening" a party or a candidate.

In contrast, formally organized "Green Parties" follow a coherent ideology that includes not only environmentalism, but also other concerns such as social justice, consensus decision-making, and pacifism. Greens believe that these issues are inherently related to one another. The best-known statement of Green values is the Four Pillars of the Green Party, adopted by the German Greens since their founding in 1979-1980.

Some people confuse Green Parties with Greenpeace, a global non-governmental organization prominent in the ecology movement, which like the Green political movement was founded in the 1970s, and shares some green goals and values, but which works with different methods and is not organized as a political party.

Influence

The first Green Party to achieve national prominence was the German Green Party, famous for their opposition to nuclear power, as an expression of anti-centralist and pacifist values traditional to greens. They were founded in 1980 and have been in coalition governments at state level for some years. They were in federal government with the Social Democratic Party of Germany in a so-called Red-Green Alliance from 1998 to 2005. In 2001, they reached an agreement to end reliance on nuclear power in Germany, and agreed to remain in coalition and support the German government of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in the 2001 Afghan War. This put them at odds with many Greens worldwide but demonstrated also that they were capable of difficult political tradeoffs.

In Finland, in 1995, the Finnish Green Party was the first European Green party to be part of a national Cabinet. Other Green Parties that have participated in government at national level include the Groen! (formerly Agalev) and Ecolo in Belgium and Les Verts in France. In the Netherlands GroenLinks ("GreenLeft") was founded in 1990 from four small left-wing parties and is now a stable faction in the Dutch parliament. In Ireland, the Green Party represented by 6 members of parliament or TDs, form part of a coalition government. Here they have two Cabinet seats and also a junior ministry.

Around the world, there has been an explosion of Green Parties over the last thirty years. Green Parties now exist in most countries with democratic systems: from Canada to Peru; from Norway to South Africa; from Ireland to Mongolia. There is Green representation at national, regional and local levels in many countries around the world. Even in some countries without democratic systems, there are now Green NGOs: for instance, in China there is Green-Web. Links to all the Green Parties around the world can be found at www.globalgreens.info.

Most of the Green Parties are formed to win elections, and so organize themselves by the presented electoral or political districts. But that does not apply universally: The Green Party of Alaska is organized along bioregional lines to practice bioregional democracy.

Alliances

Still, what defines green parties is respect for ecology and mimicry of its decentralized control (which operates by feedback, not rules). Depending on local conditions or issues, platforms and alliances may vary. In line with the goal of bioregional democracy, neighboring ecoregions may require different policies or protections.

Green Parties are often formed in a given jurisdiction by a coalition of scientific ecologists, community environmentalists, and local (or national) leftist groups or groups concerned with peace or citizens rights.

A Red-Green Alliance is an alliance between Green Parties and social democratic parties. Such alliances are typically formed for the purpose of elections (mostly in first past the post election systems), or, after elections, for the purpose of forming a government.

Some Greens find more effective alliances with spirit groups, or with more conservative groups (Blue-Green Alliance) or indigenous peoples - who seek to prevent disruption of traditional ways of life or to save ecological resources they depend on. Although Greens find much to support in fostering these types of alliances with groups of historically different backgrounds, they also feel strongly in forming diverse communities through encouragement of diversity in social and economic demographics in communities, especially in the United States.

Alliances often highlight strategic differences between participating in Parties and advancing the values of the Green movement. For example, Greens became allied with centre-right parties to oust the centre-left ruling PRI party of Mexico. Ralph Nader, the 2000 presidential nominee of the US Greens, campaigned with ultra-conservative Catholic Pat Buchanan on joint issues such as farm policy and bans on corporate funding of election campaigns, although this "alliance" between Nader and Buchanan was very specifically limited to the purpose of showing that there was broad support for certain specific issues, across the political spectrum.

US Greens grew dramatically throughout 2001. However, stable coalitions (such as that in Germany) tend to be formed between elections with 'the left' on social issues, and 'the grassroots right' on such issues as irresponsible corporate subsidies and public ethics.

Recently, on 13 June, 2007, the Irish Green Party / Comhaontas Glas agreed to go into a coalition government with Fianna Fáil, for the first time in their history. Fianna Fáil and the Green Party are joined by the Progressive Democrats in coalition and also enjoy the support of three independent members of parliament.

In the Czech Republic, the Green Party is part of the governing coalition, together with the Civic Democrats (ODS) and the Christian Democrats (KDU–ČSL) since January 2007.

Specific Green Parties

Green Parties in Europe

The first green parties in Europe were founded in the late 1970s, following the rise of environmental awareness and the development of new social movements. The first Green Party member to be elected to office was Petra Kelly, one of the founding members of the German Green Party. Since its foundation in 1980 and merger with Alliance 90 after the German reunification, Kelly's party, now named Alliance '90/The Greens, has become one of Europe's most important Green Parties. It played an important role in the formation of national-level Green parties in other countries such as Spain as well.

In 2004 the European Green Party (EGP) was founded, it is a pan-European party that unites most European Green parties. The Greens are a relatively small party in the European parliament with only 34 seats (out of 732). More than a third of these MEPs come from Germany. It has a long standing alliance with the European Free Alliance (EFA), an alliance of "stateless nations", such as the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru. Together with three independents EFA-EGP have 42 seats and they are the fourth largest party in the European Parliament.

While on many issues European Greens practice the same policies, one issue divides European Green parties: the European Union. Some Green parties, like the Dutch GreenLeft, the Swiss Green party, the Irish Green Party/Comhaontas Glas and the German Alliance '90/The Greens, are Pro-European, the Green parties in Sweden and England and Wales are Eurosceptic.

Some Green parties have been part of governing coalitions. The first one was the Finnish Green League that entered government in 1995. The Italian Federation of the Greens, the French Greens, the German Alliance '90/The Greens and both Belgian Green parties, the French-speaking Ecolo and the Dutch-speaking Agalev were part of government during the late 1990s. Most successful was the Latvian Green party, who supplied the Prime Minister of Latvia in 2004. The Swedish Green party was a long term supporter of the social-democratic minority government until the election 2006 when the social-democratic party lost. Recently, on 13 June, 2007, the Irish Green Party / Comhaontas Glas agreed to enter coalition government.

In Scandinavia, left-wing socialist parties have formed the Nordic Green Left Alliance. These parties have the same ideals as European Greens. However, they do not cooperate with the Global Greens or European Greens, but instead form a combined parliamentary group with the Party of the European Left, which unites communists and post-communists. There is one exception, in 2004 the MEP for Danish Socialist People's Party has left the Nordic Green Left parliamentary group and has joined the Green parliamentary group in the European parliament. The Socialist People's Party is currently an observer at the European Green Party and the Global Greens. In the Estonia 2007 parliamentary elections, the Estonian Greens won 7 percent of the vote, and a mandate for six seats in the country's parliament, the Riigikogu.

In some countries Greens have been unable to win any representation in the national parliament. Three reasons can be found for this. It includes countries with a first past the post electoral system, such as the United Kingdom (although the Scottish Green Party has had success in the devolved Scottish Parliament). In countries where a party with similar ideals is stronger, such as Norway and Denmark, Green parties tend to perform worse. In some Eastern European countries, like Romania and Poland, Green parties are still in the process of formation and have therefore not gained enough support. The Green Party of Bulgaria is a part of the ruling left-wing Coalition for Bulgaria. It has no parliamentary representation but it does supply one Deputy Minister in the government of Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev.

The European Green Party has worked to support weak Green Parties in European countries. Until recently, they were giving support to Green Parties in the Mediterranean countries. These Green Parties are now making electoral gains, e.g. in Spain and Republic of Cyprus, or getting organized to do so, e.g. in Greece and Malta. Therefore the EGP is now turning its attention to Eastern Europe — all these countries have Green Parties, but in materially-poor Eastern Europe the success of Green Parties is very patchy.[1][2]

Green Parties in North America and Oceania

In most of North America and Oceania, Green parties face electoral systems that have traditionally disadvantaged smaller parties.

Oceania

Nevertheless, they have achieved national or state parliamentary representation in New Zealand and Australia. In New Zealand the Green Party of New Zealand currently holds six seats in the New Zealand House of Representatives.[3] The Australian Greens hold seats in the Australian Senate and in the state parliaments of five states and one territory. Greens also hold representative positions in local government across the United States, New Zealand and Australia (where a number of local government authorities are controlled by Green councilors).

Proportional representation has strengthened the position of the Australian Greens and the Green Party of New Zealand and enabled them to participate directly in legislatures and policy-making committees. In countries following British-style 'first past the post' electoral rules, Green parties face barriers to gaining federal or provincial/regional/state seats. As of the end of 2002, there were no Greens in the elected houses of the federal legislatures of the United States or Canada. Accordingly, in these countries, Green parties focus on electoral reform. The Australia Greens preferences of the Australian Labor Party helped bring them into government and as of June 1 2008 the Australian Greens will control the balance in the Australian Senate.

North America

Two provinces of Canada, British Columbia and Ontario, have relatively strong provincial Green Parties. The Green Party of Canada is currently growing - it received 4.3% of the popular vote in the 2004 federal election and its support and influence continues to rise, largely due to new Canadian laws that are more favourable to the growth and funding of smaller parties (political parties receive $1.75 per vote per year of federal funding, as long as they achieve minimum 2% of the popular vote). Its support solidified in the 2006 federal election when it captured 4.5% of the popular vote. According to poll results released November 12, 2007 by the Globe and Mail and CTV, the Green Party of Canada had surpassed both the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Quebecois to become the third strongest party with 13% of the federal vote. See also: Provincial parties in Canada & List of Green party leaders in Canada.

In the United States, the Green Party of the U.S. has claimed electoral victories at the state and municipal levels. A Green was elected to the California State Assembly in 1999 and the Maine House of Representatives in 2002, while a party switch added a Green to the New Jersey General Assembly in 2003. Subsequent party defections and electoral defeats have currently left no Greens in U.S. state legislatures as of 2007. At least 226 Green Party members hold elected positions at the municipal level as of June 2007, including 55 in California (according to [1]). No Greens have ever been successful in federal elections. However, in 2000 Ralph Nader's candidacy as the Green party candidate may have drawn enough votes away from Al Gore to give George W. Bush a slight lead in the Florida election recountreference required. Nader himself denies that his candidacy helped Bush win the election. [4]

Green Parties in the developing world

Green Parties in the developing world are often organized with help from those in other nations. As of 2002, most notably in Africa.[5][6]

Other than hosting the first Afghanistan peace conference as part of the German government, Green Parties in the developed world have made few concrete moves to spread their values using the diplomatic channels. This is usually seen as one of the responsibilities of the Green movement - allowing parties concentrate on their voters. However, the leader of the Kenyan Green Party, Wangari Maathai recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, enhancing the image of Green parties across the third world.

In the greater Middle East region, a few Green political parties have been created, such as the Green Party of Pakistan since 2002, Green Party of Iran and the Green Party of Saudi Arabia, but many of these Green political parties are underground organizations.


References