The largest anti-nuclear protests in German history were held on March 26. About 250,000 people marched in Germany’s four largest cities.
Under the slogan “Fukushima Warns: Pull the Plug on all Nuclear Power Plants”, more than 120,000 took to the streets of Berlin, 50,000 in Hamburg, 40,000 in Koeln and upward of 40,000 marched in Muenchen.
In state elections held the next day, the German Greens won a historic victory in Baden-Wuerttemberg. They will form Germany’s first-ever Green-led government.
They also tripled their vote in elections in Rheinland-Pfalz.
Riding on widespread public opposition to nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster, the Greens doubled their vote to 24.2% of the vote in Baden-Wuerttemberg.
The centre-left Social-Democratic Party (SPD) won 23.1% of the vote. The conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won 39% of the vote, down by more than 5 points.
The CDU’s ruling coalition partner — the neoliberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) — lost more than half its support. It polled 5.3% — barely enough to remain in the Landtag (state parliament).
The left-wing Die Linke won only 2.8%of the vote and failed to win a seat. It won took 24% in state elections in the eastern state of Sachsen-Anhalt on March 20,
The outcome in Baden-Wuerttemberg means a Green-SPD coalition, with Winfried Kretschmann becomig the first ever Greens state premier.
In elections held on the same day in the nearby state of Rheinland-Pfalz, the governing SPD lost its absolute majority in parliament, dropping by 10 points to 35.7%.
That vote went almost entirely to the Greens, who tripled their vote to 15.4%. They will enter a coalition government with the SPD.
The CDU scored a small increase to 35.2%. The Free Democrats slumped to 4.2%, losing all their seats.
Die Linke polled 3% — also not enough to enter parliament.
Die Linke has made strong gains in western Germany — winning seats in all but three states — but it is still much stronger in the east.
The Greens — with a strong anti-nuclear reputation — were the clear beneficiaries of public concern about nuclear power after Fukushima.
Germany’s 17 nuclear plants account for 23% of its energy supply. But the power source has been hugely unpopular since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster sprayed radioactive fallout all over central and western Europe.
Baden-Wuerttemberg is home to Neckarwestheim I — one of seven aging nuclear reactors quickly shut down after the Fukushima disaster and a huge protest of 60,000 people.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared a three-month “moratorium” on nuclear power. But the move — given her well known support for nuclear — was widely seen as opportunism in the lead up to the state polls.
Local issues also played an important part in the Baden-Wuerttemberg result.
The Greens have played a leading role in opposing the unpopular and expensive “Stuttgart 21” railway development, which would have destroyed a heritage train station and iconic parkland in the heart of Stuttgart, the state capital.
The violent repression of protests last year — including the use of water cannons and tear gas against children and pensioners — only hardened public opinion against the CDU government.
Education policy was also important, with the SPD and Greens calling for an expansion of free, quality public education.
The Baden-Wuerttemberg result is a big blow to Merkel, who had already lost control of the German upper house after recent state elections went against her party.