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Greens' growth in Germany spurs deputy chancellor's departure

Guido Westerwelle announced he is resigning as deputy chancellor to Angela Merkel after their parties received stunning losses to Greens in last month's state elections.

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German Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor Guido Westerwelle talks during a news conference in the headquarters of the Free Democratic Party, FDP, in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, April 3. Westerwelle announced that he will quit as party leader of the ailing FDP.

Gero Breloer/AP

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When Germany's Green Party was born 30 years ago, then-Chancellor Helmut Schmidt dismissed it outright. "They're just environmental idiots who will have disappeared again soon," he said.

Current Chancellor Angela Mer­kel faces a new reality, with her deputy Guido Westerwelle resigning over the weekend as head of junior coalition partner Free Democrat Party (FDP) after he and Ms. Merkel felt stinging losses to the Greens.

Because the party didn't disappear. In fact, in a turn of events reverberating across the country, on March 27 the Greens ended six decades of conservative rule in one of Germany's wealthiest states, completing their transformation from a radical protest party to a mainstream force shaking the traditional political order.

For the first time ever in Germany, and only the second time in all of Europe, a Green party is in charge of a state government. Capitalizing on a mix of nuclear aversion and local furor over a highly unpopular railway project in Stüttgart, the Greens doubled their representation to 24.2 percent in Baden Württemberg, stealing power from Merkel's ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The Greens also tripled their representation in North Rhine Westphalia.

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