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Green!

Green! (in Dutch: Groen!; founded as Agalev (see name-section below)) is a Belgian green political party. Green! is the smallest Flemish party with a representation in the federal, regional or European parliament.

Party history

Before 1979

Many of the founders of political party Agalev came from or were inspired by the social movement Agalev. This movement was founded by the Jesuit Luc Versteylen, who had founded the environmental movement Agalev in the 1970s. Core values of this social movement were quiet, solidarity and soberness. This movement combined progressive Catholicism with environmentalism. It sought to spread environmental consciousness first on a small scale, but since 1973 it took action to protect the environment and promote environmental consciousness. In 1974 and 1976 elections Agalev supports several candidates the traditional parties, these however soon forgot the promisses they made. In 1977 the movement enters the elections in several municipalities not to gain seats, but to promote its ideals.

1979-1999

In reaction to these broken promises, a debate erupts within Agalev as to whether they should set up a political party or whether it to remain independent of politics. In the same year the party contests several municipal elections without result. An national level Agalev Working Group is founded which will coordinate the new party. It also sets up a separate association which can enter in elections. It participates in the European elections although the party wins 2.3% of the votes, it wins no seats.

In the 1981 election the party wins 4% of vote and two seats in the Chamber of Representatives and one in the Senate. Ecolo, the Walloon green party also wins two seats in the Chamber and three seats in the Senate. The political party Agalev is officially founded in 1982. It remains separate of the social movement. Prominent members of the movement Agalev, such as founder Versteylen choose not to join the political party Agalev. In the municipal elections of 1982 the party performs particularly well winning more than 10% in several municipalities. In its first periods in parliament the party functions as a protest party forcing the other parties to take more action against environmental pollution and Third World poverty. The party campaigns on specific environmental issues, such as local anti-nuclear energy protests.

The party wins two additional seats in the 1985 elections, two additional seats in 1987 and one 1991: in that year it won seven seats in parliament. Agalev has become a serious political partner for other parties. In 1992 Agalev is asked to support a constitutional change called the accords of Sint-Michiels, which would make Belgium a federation. Agalev exchanges its support for the constitutional change for a tax on bottles, the first ecotax in Belgium. In the 1995 the party campaigns on a clean hands theme, after a series of political scandals is revealed. The party however loses two seats.

1999-now

In the 1999 elections Agalev and its Walloon sister party Ecolo performed exceptionally well. A scandal surrounding dioxine in for consumption chickens, just before the elections plays an important role in the party's performance. The party won 7,0 of vote and nearly doubled its seats from 5 to 9. The Greens joined the first cabinet Verhofstadt. The cabinet further consisted out of the liberal Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD) and Reformist Movement (MR) and the socialist Socialist Party - Different (SP.A) and Parti Socialiste (PS). The cabinet was called Purple-Green cabinet or the Rainbow cabinet, because of the many political colours in the coalition. Agalev supplied two ministers Magda Aelvoet who became vice-prime minister and minister for Public Health and the Environment and Eddy Boutmans who became minister for development cooperation. The party also joined the Flemish government, which was composed of the same Flemish parties Agalev, SP.A and VLD. Mieke Vogels became the Flemish minister for Wellbeing and Development cooperation and Vera Dua became minister for Agriculture and the Environment.

On the national level, the greens, both Ecolo and Agalev are able to enact legislation on several key green issues: the cabinet decides to opt out of nuclear energy, it opens marriage to homosexuals, legalises several thousands of illegal foreigners, enacts an anti-discrimination law and promises to in time spend .7% of the national income on development aid. On the Flemish level organic agriculture is promoted, people with handicaps get personal budgets and a system of time credits is enacts to allow people to combine work, care and free time better. The party however faces several crises. Magda Aelvoet left the federal cabinet in August 2002 over a cabinet decision to trade arms with Nepal, which was at civil war at the time. She was replaced by Jef Tavernier. The Ecolo minister for mobility Isabelle Durant leaves the cabinet just before the elections over the issue of night time air plane flights over Brussels. Finally the party votes in favour of a new election law which puts a 5% threshold for seats in both the Senate and the Chamber.

The 2003 federal election formed a turning point for the party. The party was reduced to 2,6% of the vote, well bellow the 5% limit and the party lost its seats in the Chamber and Senate. In response to the election results the Flemish ministers Mieke Vogels and Vera Dua stepped down. They were replaced by Adelheid Byttebier and Ludo Sannen respectively. The party renewed is its political profile and made some important strategic decisions. Agalev would continue as an independent Flemish progressive Green party. The party congress rejected the proposal of Agalev-Limburg to form a federal cartel with the Sp.a and Spirit . The party also ruled out any participation in the future Flemish government. The party would allow provincial and municipal cartels. The party changed its name to Groen!. The party changed the post political secretary to party president, bringing the party more in line with other Belgian parties. Vera Dua became the first party president. The decision to continue separately led to considerable upheaval within the party, several prominent members, such as Antwerpen councillor Fauzaya Talhaoui and Flemish minister Sannen left the party and joined either SPIRIT or SP.A. Sannen was replaced as minister by Tavernier.

Before the 2004 elections Dua announced that if the party was supported by less than 280.000 votes the independent green political project would end. The party gains enough support to meet this limit, although it lost half it seats in Flanders compared to the 2000 elections. The party won seats from every provincial district except for Limburg, where the support to cooperate with SP.A and SPIRIT was greatest.

In the 10 June 2007 2007 federal election the party returned to the federal parliament. As it again won seats in both the Chamber and the Senate. It got 265,828 (4% of total) and four seats.

Name

The party was founded as Agalev which meant Anders Gaan Leven (English: to start living differently). This conveyed the green message that humans need to choose alternative lifestyles which are more sustainable. When the party registered at the election authority, it was forced to supply a meaning for each initial. The party thus ran under the name Anders Gaan Arbeiden, Leven, En Vrijen (English: going to work, live and have sex differently), improvised and not entirely serious, but legally correct.

After the 2003 election defeat the party renewed its political profile. This also involved a name change to Groen! (English: Green!). The name conveyed a closer alliance to the worldwide green movement with the word green and an independent and positive nature with exclamation mark.

Ideology and issues

As a traditional green party, the three core-values of Agalev were ecology, peace and participatory democracy. In the early years the party specifically sought to overcome traditional cleavages (liberal-socialist, Catholic-secular and Flemish-Belgian). Since the 1980s the ideals of diversity and social justice have also taken a prominent role. The party now places itself explicitly in the left/progressive camp. In its current political program it connected these three values by the concept quality of life.

Representation

In this table the election results of Agalev/Green! in House of Representatives, Senate and European elections is represented, as well as the results of regional elections for Flanders and Brussels. The party's political leadership is represented as well. If Green! was part of the governing federal coalition, the its minister is listed.

Year Chamber Senate EP Fle. Bru. Federal Cabinet Party president
1979 0 0 0 n/a n/a extra-parliamentary unknown
1980 0 0 0 n/a n/a extra-parliamentary unknown
1981 2 1 0 n/a n/a opposition unknown
1982 2 1 0 n/a n/a opposition unknown
1983 2 1 0 n/a n/a opposition unknown
1984 2 1 1 n/a n/a opposition unknown
1985 4 2 1 n/a n/a opposition unknown
1986 4 2 1 n/a n/a opposition unknown
1987 6 3 1 n/a n/a opposition unknown
1988 6 3 1 n/a n/a opposition unknown
1989 6 3 1 na 1 opposition unknown
1990 6 3 1 na 1 opposition unknown
1991 7 5 1 na 1 opposition unknown
1992 7 5 1 na 1 opposition unknown
1993 7 5 1 na 1 opposition unknown
1994 7 5 1 na 1 opposition unknown
1995 5 1 1 7 0 opposition unknown
1996 5 1 1 7 0 opposition unknown
1997 5 1 1 7 0 opposition Jos Geysels
1998 5 1 1 7 0 opposition Jos Geysels
1999 9 3 2 12 1 Magda Aelvoet Jos Geysels
2000 9 3 2 12 1 Magda Aelvoet Jos Geysels
2001 9 3 2 12 1 Magda Aelvoet Jos Geysels
2002 9 3 2 12 1 Magda Aelvoet Jos Geysels
2003 0 0 2 12 1 extraparliamentary Dirk Holemans
2004 0 0 1 6 1 extraparliamentary Vera Dua
2005 0 0 1 6 1 extraparliamentary Vera Dua
2006 0 0 1 6 1 extraparliamentary Vera Dua
2007 4 1 1 6 1 opposition Vera Dua
2008 4 1 1 6 1 opposition Mieke Vogels

Members of the European Parliament

After the 2004 European Parliament elections the party has one representative in the European Parliament: Bart Staes. The Green! delegation is part of the European Greens–European Free Alliance-group in the European Parliament. Together with the two MEPs of the Dutch GreenLeft he forms one transnational delegation.

Municipal government

Green! participates in several municipal governments. The party is especially strong in university cities like Leuven and Ghent.

Electorate

The support of Green! has strongly fluctuated recently. It draws most of its support from Flemish voters who do not feel bound to the strong social organizations and pillars. The party is strongest in urban areas with concentrated student populations like Ghent and Leuven.

Green!'s support is distributed in the following way between the electoral districts in the 2007 elections:

Province Votes (%) Result (seats)
Antwerp 6,9% 1
Brussel-Halle-Vilvoorde 2.7% 1
Leuven 8.2% 0
Limburg 4.1% 0
East Flanders 7.2% 1
West Flanders 5.8% 1

Organization

Organizational structure

The highest organ of Green! is the party congress, which is open to all members. The party has a relatively decentralized organization with strong municipal branches and a relatively small national organization. For a long time the party did not have a party president who set out the political strategy, but a party secretary with far less power. In 2003 the party changed this situation.

In contrast to other parties Green! MPs face relatively strong regulation: the party does not allow to multiple offices per person, while it is traditional for Belgian MPs to be both mayor of municipality and federal MP for instance; furthermore MPs are not allowed to run for more than two terms; to ensure gender equality every second candidate on the party list has to be female; finally a high percentage of the income of MPs is taxed by the party.

For Belgian standards Green! has relatively little members. It ranges from 2,000 to 6,500. On average this is only 1% of the Green! voters. Traditionally Belgian parties have about 10% of their voter-base as member.

The party's youth organization, Young Green! (earlier Young Agalev) has grown out of local groups of young Groen members, active since the late eighties and early nineties. These local groups started coordinated action in 1996. In 1998 Jong Groen was officially founded.

International organisations

Green! is a member of the European Green Party and the Global Greens. The party hosted the founding congress of the European Federation of Green Parties.

Relationships to social organisations

Green! is ideologically and historically linked to the environmental movement Agalev, which was founded by the Jesuit Luc Versteylen. The party and the social movement are separate entities. Green! still has strong contacts with environmental organizations. It has not developed a pillar of social organizations around it as other parties have.

Relationships to other parties

The party has relatively good relations with the SP.A-SPIRIT cartel. It was asked to join them in 2003. It refused, however. Furthermore, the party has maintained good relations with its Walloon sister party, Ecolo.

International comparison

Internationally Groen! is comparable to the larger European Green parties, especially the German Alliance '90/The Greens which has also been in government although more successfully. The European Greens are more realist than the American and English and Welsh green parties, but also in many cases more leftwing and internationalist.

See also

External links

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