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Does Ireland's Green Party's defeat signal a turning tide?

By Martin Leggett - 01 Mar 2011 19:8:3 GMT
Does Ireland's Green Party's defeat signal a turning tide?

The chickens have definitely come home to roost, for the Green Party in the Republic of Ireland. The general election there, on the 25th February, looks certain to see the Greens left with no seats in the Dail, the Irish equivalent of the House of Representatives. Contrast that to four years ago, when they were riding high, with 5% of the vote, 6 Dail seats, and a place at the table of power -  as part of the governing coalition with Fianna Fail.

But after the global financial crisis bought Ireland's economy to its knees, the Greens seem to be suffering from voters wrath at the failure of that governing coalition. Their share of the vote has now fallen to less than 2%.

Green Party leader, John Gormley, has conceded that the Irish Greens have been severely punished, for involvement the coalition; Fianna Fail was widely held as being in the pocket of the financiers that bought disaster. But he remained positive, saying ''We have a set of beliefs and values and a vision for the future. We are going to rebuild, make no mistake about it.''

The downturn in popular opinion for an elected Green party has some wondering whether the high tide, for environmental electoral success, has been reached. After all, it has been 5 years since Europe's most powerful environmental party, the German Green Party, lost power after its long coalition with the SPD (Social Democratic Party). Maybe the European public has tried the Green's wares and has found them wanting.

That may be a little simplistic. It is true that the wholesale adoption of a 'green tinge', by parties across the European political spectrum, has taken away much of the direct vote from the Greens. And the financial crisis, with the recession that hit hard after, did leave many voters focused on short-term issues - like creating jobs and budget cuts. But if the Euro-Green Parties can focus on their own solutions to these obvious failings of the current system, maybe they can reconnect with the public.

And at least Europe is having this debate. In the US it remains stifled by a party system that fails to allow the public to flirt with minority parties, like the Greens. State thresholds for election remain stubbornly high, and politics often seems frozen in the frame of a Republican-Democrat tribal war. Anyone for US ballot-access reform?