A Green party or ecologist party is a formally organized political party based on the principles of Green politics, which is founded in many countries. These principles include social justice, reliance on grassroots democracy, nonviolence, and an emphasis on environmentalism. "Greens" believe that the exercise of these principles leads to world health.
There are distinctions 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 as a foundation for world peace. The best-known statement of the above Green values is the Four Pillars of the Green Party, adopted by the German Greens since their founding in 1979-1980.
Green movements call for social reform to cut abuse of natural resources. Examples include Green Parties as well as Greenpeace, which was founded in 1970s concurrently with many Green Parties. Its aims agree with those of many green movements, though it approaches its objectives in different ways.
The world's first political parties to campaign on a predominantly environmental platform were the United Tasmania Group which contested the April 1972 state election in Tasmania, Australia and the Values Party of New Zealand, which contested the May 1972 New Zealand general election. The first green party in Europe was the Popular Movement for the Environment, founded in 1972 in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel. The first national green party in Europe was PEOPLE, founded in Britain in February 1973, which turned eventually into the Ecology Party, and then the Green Party.
The first Green Party to achieve national prominence was the German Green Party, famous for their opposition to nuclear power, as well 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 two junior ministries.
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. 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.
Depending on local conditions or issues, platforms and alliances may vary. In line with the goal of 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, such as those in Hawaii, find more effective alliances 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 about 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 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 agreed to go into a coalition government with Fianna Fáil, for the first time in their history. Fianna Fáil and the Green Party were joined by the Progressive Democrats in coalition and also enjoy the support of three independent members of parliament. (The Progressive Democrats have since been dissolved as a party, though their members remain in parliament.)
In the Czech Republic, the Green Party was part of the governing coalition, together with the Civic Democrats (ODS) and the Christian Democrats (KDU–ČSL) from January 2007 until the government collapsed in March 2009. The Irish and Finnish Green Parties are now the only ones participating in their respective governments.
Specific Green Parties
Green Parties in Europe
Belgian and German roots
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. Green Parties in Belgium first made a breakthrough. Belgium had Green members of parliament elected first in the 1970s, and with seats on the local council, held the balance of power in the city of Liege, so were the first to go into coalition with the ruling party on that council. In 1979 political campaigns and dissident groups feeling under represented in west German politics formed a coalition to contest the 1979 elections to the European Parliament. Although they did not win any seats, the groups in this association formally agreed to become a party and won a breakthrough in the German national elections of 1983. They were not the first Green Party in Europe to have members elected nationally but the impression was created that they had been, because they attracted the most media attention. This was partly due to their charismatic Petra Kelly, a German who was of interest to the American media because she had an American father. 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.
1984-1989: A new political force on the political stage
In 1984 Greens agreed a common platform for the European Parliament Elections and the first Green Members of the European Parliament were elected here. Germany, a stronghold of the Green movement, elected seven MEPs; two more came from Belgium and two from the Netherlands. As those nine MEPs did not entitle the Greens to form a parliamentary group on their own, they concluded an alliance with MEPs from Italy, Denmark, and regionalists from Flanders and Ireland to form the GRAEL (Green Alternative European Link) group, also known as the Rainbow group. Politically they engaged in the fight against environmental pollution, nuclear energy (1986 saw the Chernobyl disaster), the promotion of animal protection and the campaign against the demolition of Brussels by speculation fuelled by the presence of the European institutions.
From the Nineties until today
After years of co-operation between the national Green Parties they formed a pan-European alliance that unites most European Green parties. The Greens are a party within the European parliament with 46 seats, as of June 2009. It has a long standing alliance with the European Free Alliance (EFA), an alliance of "stateless nations", such as the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru and Scottish Nationalist Party. Together European Green Party/EFA have 50 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 and the German Alliance '90/The Greens, are Pro-European, the Green parties in Sweden and England and Wales are moderately 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. The Irish Green Party has been in government since 2007. Ireland has a Green Party Minister for the Environment and Local Government and Minister for Energy and Natural Resources.
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 2004, Latvia became the first country in the world to have a Green politician become Head of Government, but in 2006 the Green Party received only 16.71 of the vote. 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 found it difficult 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. However, despite the first past the post system in the United Kingdom, the Green Party of England and Wales won their first seat in the House of Commons when Caroline Lucas won the seat of Brighton Pavilion. The Scottish Green Party has had success in the devolved Scottish Parliament and the Irish Green Party in Northern Ireland has had success in the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly, where the first-past-the-post system is not used. 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 left-wing Coalition for Bulgaria, currently in opposition. It has no parliamentary representation but it did supply one Deputy Minister in the government of Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev from 2005 - 2009.
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, Greece and Republic of Cyprus, or getting organized to do so, e.g. in 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.
Green Parties in North America and Oceania
Green parties have achieved national or state parliamentary representation in New Zealand and Australia. In New Zealand the Green Party of New Zealand currently holds nine seats in the New Zealand House of Representatives after the recent New Zealand general election 2008. 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 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. The Australian Labor Party's practice of allocating a portion of ALP ticket votes to Australian Greens has helped bring AG candidates into parliament.
In the most recent ACT election in Australia, the Greens won 15.6% of the vote, winning 4 out of 17 seats. Shane Rattenbury was elected the speaker of the assembly, the first time a Green party member had held such a position in any parliament or assembly in Australia. Similarly, a recent Newspoll shows Greens support continues to increase on the national level, currently 13% (The Greens polled 7.8% at the 2007 Federal election).
The Green Confederation (Confédération Verte) in Vanuatu won 2 out of 52 seats in the the last legislative elections on 2 September 2008. Its most prominent member is Moana Carcasses Kalosil, the Minister of Internal Affairs and Minister of Labour.
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. In Mexico, however, the Partido Verde Ecologista has 17 deputies and four senators in Congress as a result of the 2006 elections.
In Canada, the strongest provincial Green Parties are the Green Party of British Columbia and the Green Party of Ontario though they are yet to win any seats in a provincial legislature. Federally, the Green Party of Canada has been 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 $1.82 per vote per year of federal funding, as long as they achieve minimum 2% of the popular vote). Its support grew in the 2006 federal election when it captured 4.5% of the popular vote. On August 30, 2008 the party gained its first Member of Parliament in the Canadian House of Commons when sitting Independent MP Blair Wilson joined the party. In the 2008 federal election the party captured 6.8% of the popular vote. See also: Provincial parties in Canada & List of Green party leaders in Canada. Also in the recent Vancouver municipal election, Stuart Mackinnon, a member of the Vancouver Green Party, was elected to the Vancouver Parks Board.
In the United States, Greens first ran for public office in 1985. Since then the Green Party of the U.S. has claimed electoral victories at the municipal, county and state levels. The first U.S. Greens to be elected were David Conley and Frank Koehn in Wisconsin 1986. Each was elected to a position on the County Board of Supervisors in Douglas and Bayfield counties respectively. Keiko Bonk was first elected in 1992 in Hawaii County; becoming Official Chairwoman in 1995. The first Green Party mayor was Kelly Weaverling, elected in Cordova, AK in 1991. Approximately 160 Greens hold elected office across the US as of summer 2009. . The first U.S. Green was elected to a state legislature was Audie Bock in 1999 to the California State Assembly, followed by John Eder to the Maine House of Representatives in 2002 and 2004 and Richard Carroll to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2008. While in office in 2003 in the New Jersey General Assembly incumbent Matt Ahearn made a party switch to Green for the remainder of his term. The Green Party has contested four U.S. presidential elections - in 1996 and 2000 with Ralph Nader for President and Winona LaDuke as Vice-President; in 2004 with David Cobb for President and Pat LaMarche for Vice-President and in 2008 with Cynthia McKinney for President and Rosa Clemente for Vice-President.
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 the foundation of Green Parties has been the most notable in Africa.
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 to concentrate on their voters. However, the leader of the Kenyan Green Party, Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, 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, the Green Party of Lebanon, and the Green Party of Saudi Arabia, but many of these Green political parties are underground organizations.
In the 90's, the Oxygen Green Party was created under the leadership of Ingrid Betancourt but dissolved after her infamous kidnapping. Later, the Visionaries Party was created by Antanas Mockus whose ideals earned him the Bogotá Mayoral Office twice. In the 2010 Colombian presidential election a green party have been created under the name Colombian Green Party, with former Bogotá mayor Antanas Mockus being the leader.