40 years of the Greens in the Bundestag: from exotics to the governing party

On March 6, 1983, a new figure appeared on the political map of the Federal Republic: The Greens – only founded in 1979 – gained 5.8 percent of the early Bundestag elections and thus entered the German Parliament for the first time. A little later they take part in the constituent session of the Bundestag with sunflowers, branches of an environmentally ill fir tree and in wool sweaters – at that time still in Bonn.

It is the beginning of a success story. The Greens are only absent from parliament in one subsequent legislative period: in 1990, with 4.8 percent, they narrowly miss the five percent hurdle. They are now part of the republic’s political inventory and have long been established. In 1998 they formed a red-green coalition with the SPD under Gerhard Schröder, their first government participation at federal level. The party has been part of the traffic light coalition under Chancellor Olaf Scholz since 2021. We show some highlights and turning points from 40 years of Greens in the Bundestag in our photo series.

Greens in the Bundestag: A new wind in the House

Initially, the newcomers are smiled at by the established parties. “Many were downright stunned and reacted aggressively – but some also with humor,” recalled Marieluise Beck, one of the first MPs, in the “Tagesschau” interview. Emerging from the environmental and peace movement, the Greens stirred up the Bonn Republic in 1983: for the first time since 1957, a fourth party was seated in the Bundestag. Until then, only the Union, SPD and FDP had been represented.

But with the Greens, a new wind is blowing in the House. The new deputies don’t think much of authorities, they don’t stick to traditional customs, use language that many deputies from other parties find inappropriate, appear in the plenary session in casual clothes. The appearance of Joschka Fischer in sneakers and his statement “With all due respect, Mr. President, you are an asshole” to the President of the Bundestag are legendary.

“The cultural clash that took place there was already obvious from our demeanor and external appearance: on the one hand we Greens, who by appearance alone – with long beards and long hair – represented the generation that opposed the established norms rebelled. And on the other hand, the established older gentlemen in their suits. It was a brilliant encounter between different cultures,” says Marieluise Beck.

Sources: Bundestag / Federal Agency for Civic Education / “Daily News”

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