In pursuing electoral success, green parties throughout the world have had to balance the tasks of projecting a status of being both insiders and outsiders at the same time. Put another way, greens need to sell themselves as both 'protesting radicals with principles' and as a pragmatic suit-wearing part of the political Establishment. This contradictory task is at the heart of the subject of how the New Zealand Green Party is searching for greater success. The necessity of an insider/outsider status is a peculiarity of green parties and does not apply to other minor parties to the same extent. This is because green parties emerged from distinctly anti-conventional, anti-establishment ‘outsider’ counter-cultural movements. Political parties were seen as part of the establishment that these movements rejected, yet, from these movements political parties emerged. This fascinated political scientists in the 1980s and early 1990s, and consequently a considerable amount has been written about the emergence and success of green parties in this period. This blog post is the second of five, written by Niki Lomax, based on her recent University of Otago Politics Department Honour dissertation which discusses the path the Greens’ have taken to get to this point, focusing on what has made the Green Party successful and what barriers has it faced in its quest for success. [Read more below]
Although New Zealand can be credited with the first national green party, it was Europe where greens first achieved tangible electoral success. Die Grünen, the German Green Party, brought green politics to the attention of the world. It has been said that after the success of Die Grünen in the early 1980s a ‘green tide’ swept across Europe. Within a few years all Western European countries had a green party, and by 2002 five of these parties had entered government. This tide also swept across academia with green parties receiving an incredible amount of attention.
This blog post discusses theoretical explanations for green success, specifically focusing on the theories presented by Ronald Inglehart, Ferdinand Müller-Rommel, Herbert Kitschelt and Peter Mair. Inglehart provides a cultural explanation, Müller-Rommel takes a structural approach focusing on institution factors and party systems, and Kitschelt focuses on party competition theory. This provides a theoretical underpinning to explain why green parties, as outsider parties, were able to enter political systems and in many Western democracies achieve sustained parliamentary presence. In contrast to these thinkers, Mair does not consider parliamentary presence a measure of success. Instead he suggests that there is an inherent limit to the success potential of green parties because of their insider/outsider status.
New social movements and the emergence of green politics
Much of the academic discussion concerning green parties places them in the context of the emergence of ‘new politics’ and the ‘new social movements’ (NSMs) of the 1970s and 1980s. This provides an historical explanation for the rise of green parties and is related to several success theories. The NSMs were concerned with the environment, nuclear power in particular, but also issues relating to identity and human culture; these included peace, gay rights and women’s rights. Green parties are seen as successors of these protest movements. The NSMs greatly informed the formation of green parties and these ideals. The term ‘green party’ describes more than just the environment: the ‘four pillars’ of green politics are ecological wisdom, social justice, grass-roots democracy and non violence.
NSMs had an observable impact on the way early green parties organised themselves. Die Grünen, for example, advocated grass roots activism, collective leadership, restrictions on the ‘trappings of office’ including low fixed incomes for their MPs, the rejection of coalitions to avoid compromise and the discouragement of professional politicians. This unorthodox approach to party organisation led academics to describe them as an ‘anti-party party’ (APP). The APP model, which infers an explicit rejection of electoral-professionalism and elitism, underpins the outsider status of green parties. In the case of Die Grünen, this APP model was slowly eroded over time as the party faced the realities of electoral competition and sought insider status; but those aspects that remain, such as a commitment to internal democracy, are a legacy of the NSMs.
It should be pointed out that although influenced heavily by the counter-cultural aspirations of NSMs, green parties are not NSMs themselves. As political scientist Neil Carter has highlighted: ‘simply by contesting elections and operating within the political system, green parties set themselves clearly apart from the ideal-type NSM.’
Postmaterialism: a cultural explanation
The rise of NSMs is often attributed to a shift in cultural aspirations. This shift can also explain the emergence and persistence of green parties. Specifically, Ronald Inglehart has asserted that green parties are a consequence of the rise of what he terms ‘postmaterialism’ in Western societies.
Ronald Inglehart’s theory of postmaterialism is possibly the most cited explanation for green party success. It is also the most contentious. Inglehart argues that the post-World War Two generation was one with new and distinct priorities. This generational group experienced an ‘unprecedented degree of economic security’ which led to a shift from materialist values to postmaterialist values.  Without concern for material needs, individuals focused on more non-material ‘wants’. This work echoes Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ written in 1943, which discusses human desires as a ranked order from the most basic survival needs through to spiritual wants and the need for contentment and self-actualisation. Inglehart argues that environmental concern falls into the category of ‘higher needs’.
Inglehart suggests that environmental concern is higher in countries that are better off and have more comprehensive welfare systems. As a consequence these countries are more postmaterialist. Nations with postmaterialist publics are considerably more willing to make financial sacrifices for environmental protection. Caring about the environment in this context is a cultural phenomenon rather than a reflection of immediate survival needs. Inglehart argues that postmaterialism has a direct impact on the presence and success of a green party.  Studies and polls have shown that compared with supporters of other political parties, green voters are younger, better educated, often hold a university degree, less likely to be religious, and more likely to have a ‘white collar’ or public sector job. This profile correlates well with Inglehart’s description of a postmaterialist. In reference to the formation of European green parties in the early 1980s, he notes that, ‘in every case support for these parties comes from a disproportionately Postmaterialist constituency.’ The postmaterialist constituency is the group of voters the APP model, or a green parties outsider status, appeals most to.
Inglehart’s also discusses how salience of materialist issues can hinder green party success, although if the materialist issue is connected to environmental concern, this can be beneficial. For example, if the public is preoccupied with issues such as high unemployment, green issues are likely to be sidelined. With an issue such as pollution, however, the material nature of this environmental issue can contribute to green electoral success. When environmentalism can clearly be linked to basic survival needs, it increases the credibility of the green message.
The Müller-Rommel model: a structural explanation
Political scientist Ferdinand Müller-Rommel has written a substantial body of work on the success of green parties. His comparative analysis of European green parties defines ‘successful’ green parties as those which had contested at least two national elections, and who had polled at three per cent or more of the national vote. Müller-Rommel takes a structural approach to analysing green success and states that the ‘characteristics of the political and the economic setting of a country are responsible for the electoral strength of [successful green] parties.’
Müller-Rommel presents a set of variables which form a framework for predicting what factors influence green success:
(1) Electoral law and federalism. Generally, a proportional representation (PR) electoral system has been shown to facilitate the entry of new parties, such as greens. However, there are unsuccessful green parties in PR systems and successful parties in non-PR systems, so Müller-Rommel hesitates in drawing a conclusive link. A federal structure, however, is shown to be extremely facilitative to green parties as it provides a platform to legitimise a small party on a regional level, increasing credibility on a national level.
(2) Party system. Müller-Rommel argues that nations with extremely polarised party systems will be less likely to have strong green parties; if there is vast ideological distance between the major parties, this dominates the political debate and marginalises minor parties. This can make it difficult for green parties to gain electoral traction.
(3) Cartelisation. The Katz and Mair theory of the ‘cartel party’ argues that major parties have formed relationships with each other, what they term ‘inter-party collusion’, for the purposes of using the ‘spoils of the state’ in order to protect their incumbency, resist organisational or programmatic change and create a barrier to entry for new parties outside the ‘cartel’. Green parties, suggests Müller-Rommel, represent ‘challenger’ parties, positioning them to capitalise on disillusionment. Thus, being a cartelised system is conducive to green support. Katz and Mair’s use of the terms ‘cartel’ and ‘challenger’ directly correlates to the idea of insiders/outsiders status
(4) Unemployment. Low rates of unemployment benefit green parties. This relates to Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ which in most contexts would position environmental concern as a higher need.
(5) Gross National Product. Müller-Rommel cites empirical evidence to support the connection between affluence and green party success. Criteria (4) and (5) support the idea that economic security is an important factor in determining levels of green party support.
Müller-Rommel acknowledges that his list of variables is non-exhaustive and that there are exceptions. Of course, using simplistic models to explain something inherently complex is likely to result in exceptions and qualifications.
Political Opportunity Structure: a comprehensive explanation
Broad comparative explanations cannot account for differences between nations and factors such as personalities and context; this is where the ‘political opportunity structure’ (POS) framework is useful. Largely associated with research on social movements, the POS framework combines ‘broad structural and cultural explanations with institutional factors such as the electoral system and party competition’ and concerns ‘dimensions of the political environment which either encourage or discourage people from using collective action.’ Essentially, it means taking a case by case approach which can provide a comprehensive explanation for the success or failure of any one green party.
To use Die Grünen as an example, a description of the POS in Germany can account for their Green Party’s comparative success. Their economic affluence, presence of postmaterialism values, electoral law and federalism all provide structural characteristics conducive to a popular green party. In addition to these characteristics, the POS also accounts for context and personality. The popularity of Green parliamentarians Petra Kelly and Joschka Fischer, for example, was hugely beneficial to the party’s reputation. Germany’s sympathy for pacifism, or the so-called ‘Holocaust effect’, was another factor that worked in Die Grünen’s favour. On the other hand, Germany’s reunification in 1990 and then the murder of Petra Kelly in 1992 were electorally damaging to the Greens, although these were only a short-term setbacks. While it is useful to contextualise a party’s success in this way, it is a very catch-all kind of approach. As Carter has noted, the POS is effectively ‘used to explain so much, it may ultimately explain nothing at all.’ It also fails to account for the impact of the condition of the actual physical environment on green success, for example a significant pollution problem; nor does it account for growing public knowledge of climate change or environmental issues. However, as with Inglehart, it is true that macro-arguments still have their place.
Herbert Kitschelt: party competition theory
Herbert Kitschelt views green success, or lack thereof, as a product of the dynamics of party competition. He sees green parties as part of a larger cohort of parties he describes as ‘left-libertarian’ parties. ‘Left’ because they critique the idea that markets should be the primary force in determining development, and ‘libertarian’ because they advocate individual autonomy and grassroots, decentralised organisation. Green parties are one type of left-libertarian party, and left-socialist parties are the other.
Kitschelt provides sets of conditions where left-libertarian parties are most likely to succeed. Kitschelt’s first condition is affluence and a high gross national product (GNP). This is directly related to his second condition: a comprehensive welfare state. As Inglehart and Müller-Rommel also argued, Kitschelt states that economic security frees thought and resources for left-libertarian sympathies. Kitschelt also observes that strong labour movement corporatism leads to disillusionment with the labour moment and creates a ‘positional vacuum’ that can be filled by left-libertarian parties. This vacuum becomes particularly attractive if the major centre-left party is perceived to be weak; voters feel there is little cost in abandoning the major party in favour of a minor party. He suggests that if the centre-left party is in opposition this is less beneficial, regardless of strength, because in opposition centre-left parties appear more radical, thus undercutting a green party’s alternative appeal. Finally, a history of NSMs, anti-nuclear movements in particular, is a condition for left-libertarian presence as anti-nuclear protest in the 1970s became a symbolic rallying point for left-libertarian activism. These are the variables Kitschelt argues have most affect on the success of left-libertarian parties.
According to this framework, Kitschelt highlights four nations where left-libertarianism is most likely to be strong: Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany. This illuminates a key point about the effects of party competition. Green parties, if they exist at all, are less successful in Scandinavian countries than in Germany. This is because Scandinavian countries have small left-socialist parties occupying the political space that is taken by the greens in other nations. These left-socialist parties provide a sympathetic platform for environmentalism and render a green party unnecessary. Green parties will not be successful where there is already an established left-libertarian party.
Kitschelt’s contribution is important as it emphasises the effect of party competition. It is interesting that he explicitly places green parties on the left of the traditional spectrum. This is in contrast to theorists, and often the parties themselves who, describe the green spectrum as one that runs perpendicular to the left-right spectrum. Green parties have been known to describe themselves as ‘not left, not right, but green.’ However, as mentioned above, social justice is a core value of green politics; most green parties, the New Zealand Green Party included, have social policies that conform to a typically left-wing stance. Green party rhetoric may reject the traditional spectrum; however, the left-right paradigm is useful in terms of understanding how a green party is positioned within the dynamics of a country’s political system.
Peter Mair: the greens ‘natural limit’
Inglehart, Kitschelt and Müller-Rommel talk about success in relative terms which presumes that some green parties have actually achieved success. In particular, the example held as the definitive ‘successful’ green party is Die Grünen. Peter Mair’s 2001 study of Die Grünen, in the midst of their term in government as part of the red-green coalition, takes a far more critical approach. He notes that while green parties have persisted as part of the electoral landscape, they suffer from entrenched minor party status. Although their ideological position is relatively acceptable to voters, their polling continues to be unimpressive. Green parties represent an alternative, a ‘new politics’ that challenges existing organisational and strategic norms. The intent of the APP model was to separate green parties from conventional party politics and speak for the disillusioned. The greens benefited from being outside the ‘cartel’, and presenting themselves as anti-party and anti-old politics.
Their entrenched minor party status means that in all nations where greens have entered government, they have done so through forming coalitions. By working with conventional parties in this way, they effectively become part of the cartel; they succumb to the logic of electoral competition and they make sacrifices and compromises for the sake of inclusion. This inevitably causes tension within the party and with the electorate. Mair suggests that ‘in this sense there could well be a “natural” limit to Green electoral success.’ While on the outside of the cartel, although they are maintaining their principles, they cannot access power. This dichotomous relationship with the conventional establishment has been problematic for green parties and continues to affect their electoral success.
How the greens operate in government and how they handle compromise naturally impacts on their electoral success. Being in coalition as a minor member means accepting compromise and often defending policy they would otherwise oppose. Political scientist Wolfgang Rüdig has observed that a ‘toleration’ or ‘confidence and supply’ approach works better in some cases. He uses examples of arrangements in New Zealand, Tasmania and Sweden where the greens were not part of the government but offered selective support in exchange for minor policy concessions. In all cases these arrangements were frustrating for the greens as policy gains were minimal and they were often marginalised. How a green party operates in government, or deals with being outside of government, is clearly going to affect electoral success. It is very unlikely that a green party will be in a position to form a government in the near future; even Die Grünen only received 10.7% in the last German election. Green parties are minor parties with limited political power and they need to be pragmatic to survive.
Conclusion: a theoretical overview
European theorists present varying explanations for green success. Müller-Rommel and Kitschelt largely focus on structural explanations, such as electoral systems, economic security, party systems and party competition; essentially, they examine a country’s POS and identify common factors that are facilitative for green parties. These factors are important insofar as they explain why some countries have green parties and others do not. However, rather than explaining green party ‘success’, it is more accurate to say that these theories explain green party presence, or existence.
Other explanations for green success focus less on institutions and more on cultural factors. Considerable importance is placed on green parties’ historical origins and their links with NSMs. Inglehart argues that NSMs and the rise of a postmaterialist constituency in the post-war era facilitated the formation of green parties. These historical origins are important; they inform both green party branding and organisation. The APP model, and to what extent a modern green party maintains aspects of this framework, has interesting implications for their success. How a green party transitions from being outsiders, or as Katz and Mair describe, a ‘challenger party’, to being insiders, or inside the ‘cartel’, has an considerable impact on a green party’s potential for success. If Mair is correct, by succumbing to electoral logic and giving into convention, green parties in the long term may find there is a ‘natural limit’ to their potential for success.
The concentration of electorally successful green parties in Europe, particularly Western Europe, has meant that literature concerning green success is almost entirely Eurocentric. The majority of it coincides with the rise of the first European green parties and is consequently often outdated. Some theorists, for example, predicted green parties would be ‘flash parties’, declining as rapidly as they had emerged. Clearly this was not the case. This research takes these Eurocentric, out-dated theories and applies them to a modern antipodean context. This provides the basis for analysis of the New Zealand Green Party and its pursuit of success. The following two blog posts discuss how the New Zealand context facilitated the success of the Greens when they were defined by their outsider status, and how the repositioning of the party in their bid to achieve more than just parliamentary representation has seen them pursue an insider status.
Next blog post - Vote for me (Part 3): Greens go from Protest to Permanence
The above blog post is the second of five posts taken from a dissertation submitted for the degree of Bachelor of Arts (Honours) at the University of Otago, by Niki Lomax, and entitled ‘Vote for Me: The Green Party’s quest for success’. Niki can be contacted at: email@example.com The dissertation was supervised by Bryce Edwards.
 The full name of the German Green Party is Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, or Alliance 90/The Greens. Following unification, the West German Green Party merged with Alliance 90, an alliance of political groups in East Germany that included the East German Green Party. For the purposes of continuity, I use Die Grünen when referring to both the West German Green Party and the post-unification German Green Party.
 Stephen L. Rainbow, “The Unrealised Potential of Green Politics: A Study of Four Green Parties,” (PhD thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, 1991), 20-21.
 Ferdinand Müller-Rommel, “The Lifespan and the Political Performance of Green Parties in Western Europe,” Environmental Politics 11, no. 1 (2002): 1.
 Each theorist adopts a slightly different definition of success; however for the purposes of this chapter, unless otherwise specified, it can be assumed that success refers to a sustained parliamentary presence.
 For further discussion of the historical origins of green parties see: Dick Richardson, “The Green challenge: Philosophical, programmatic and electoral considerations,” in The Green Challenge: The Development of Green Parties in Europe, ed. Dick Richardson and Chris Rootes (London, U.K.: Routledge, 1995) and Neil Carter, The Politics of the Environment: Ideas, Activism, Policy (New York, N.Y: Cambridge University Press, 2001).
 The ‘four pillars’ historically originate from the founding principles of Die Grünen. See: E. Gene Frankland, “Germany: The rise, fall and recovery of Die Grünen,” in The Green Challenge: The Development of Green Parties in Europe, ed. Dick Richardson and Chris Rootes (London, U.K: Routledge, 1995), 18. Most green parties use these pillars as the basis of their political programme, although there are variations. For example, the United States Green Party expanded these principles to ‘ten key values’; see: “Ten Key Values of the Green Party,” Green Party of the United States website, accessed 23 August, 2010, http://www.gp.org/tenkey.shtml.
 Carter, The Politics of the Environment: Ideas, Activism, Policy, 109.
 Carl Boggs, Social Movements and Political Power: Emerging Forms of Radicalism in the West (Philadelphia, US: Temple University Press, 1986), 171.
 Carter, The Politics of the Environment: Ideas, Activism, Policy, 92.
 See: Ronald Inglehart, “Public Support for Environmental Protection: Objective Problems and Subjective Values in 43 Societies,” PS: Political Science and Politics 28, no. 1 (1995) and Inglehart, Moderinzation and Postmodernization: Cultural, Economic and Political Change in 43 Societies (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997).
 Inglehart, “Public Support for Environmental Protection: Objective Problems and Subjective Values in 43 Societies,” 62.
 Abraham H. Maslow, “A Theory of Human Motivation,” Psychological Review 50, no. 4 (1943): 375.
 Inglehart, “Public Support for Environmental Protection: Objective Problems and Subjective Values in 43 Societies,” 58.
 Ibid., 68.
 Carter, The Politics of the Environment: Ideas, Activism, Policy, 92.
 It should be noted that the way Inglehart measures postmaterialism and describes individuals as either postmaterialist or materialist has been widely critiqued. Values cannot easily be measured or quantified. For further critique of Inglehart see: Carter, The Politics of the Environment: Ideas, Activism, Policy, 90
 Inglehart, “Public Support for Environmental Protection: Objective Problems and Subjective Values in 43 Societies,” 68.
 Inglehart, “Public Support for Environmental Protection: Objective Problems and Subjective Values in 43 Societies,” 64.
 Ferdinand Müller-Rommel, “Explaining the Electoral Success of Green Parties: A Cross-National Analysis,” Environmental Politics 7, no. 4 (1998): 147.
 Ibid., 148.
 Ibid., 149-52.
 Peter Mair and Richard S. Katz, “Changing Models of Party Organization and Party Democracy: The Emergence of the Cartel Party,” Party Politics 1, no. 1 (1995): 15-19.
 Carter, The Politics of the Environment: Ideas, Activism, Policy, 84.
 Sidney G. Tarrow, Power in Movement: Social Movements and Contentious Politics (New York, US: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 18.
 Carter, The Politics of the Environment: Ideas, Activism, Policy, 97.
 Wolfgang Rüdig, “Germany,” in Green Parties in National Governments, ed. Ferdinand Müller-Rommel and Thomas Poguntke (London, UK: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd., 2002).
 Carter, The Politics of the Environment: Ideas, Activism, Policy, 103.
 Ibid., 104.
 Herbert Kitschelt, The Logics of Party Formation: Ecological Politics in Belgium and West Germany (New York, US: Cornell University Press, 1989), 2.
 These ‘left-socialist’ parties were predominantly Scandinavian, such as the Sosialistisk Folkeparti (Socialist People’s Party) of Norway that briefly contested elections in the 1960s, and the Vänsterpartiet kommunisterna (Left Communist Party) of Sweden that still contests elections today.
 Kitschelt, The Logics of Party Formation: Ecological Politics in Belgium and West Germany, 20.
 Ibid., 22.
 De Grønne, the Danish Green Party, exists only in name. Norway also has no green party. GroenLinks or ‘GreenLeft’, a Dutch alliance of left-wing groups that have adopted environmentalism as a central platform, received 6.6% in the last general election. The Netherlands has a second green party called De Groenen; they have never gained national representation. The Swedish Greens are the most successful green party in Scandinavia; they received 7.34% in the last general election.
 E. Gene Frankland, Paul Lucardie, and Benoit Rihoux, Green Parties in Transition: the end of grass-roots democracy? (Surrey, U.K.: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2008), 123.
 Peter Mair, “The Green Challenge and Political Competition: How Typical is the German Experience?,” German Politics 10, no. 2 (2001): 104.
 Peter Mair, “The Green Challenge and Political Competition: How Typical is the German Experience?”, 111.
 Wolfgang Rüdig, “Between ecotopia and disillusionment: Green parties in European Government,” Environment 44, no. 3 (2002): 28.
 Ibid., 28-29.
 This election was in 2009. Results can be found here: “Final result of the Election to the German Bundestag 2009,” German Federal Returning Officer, accessed 13 August, 2011, http://www.bundeswahlle iter.de/en/bundestagswahlen/BTW_BUND_09/ergebnisse/bundesergebnisse/grafik_stimmenanteile_99-2.html.
 A ‘flash party’ is one that appears suddenly on a political landscape. It is often focused on a single issue and once it makes progress on that issue, or not as the case may be, it becomes electorally insignificant or non-existent. An example of this from New Zealand is Bob Jones’ New Zealand Party that contested the 1984 election.