BONN, DEC. 3 -- Germany's Greens, the outsider party that pushed environmental concerns into the political mainstream, woke up this morning to find themselves back where they started a decade ago -- on the fringe.
When the new German Parliament convenes later this month, the open collars, jeans and sandals -- the irreverent Green look -- will be gone. All 42 Green Parliament members, along with the party's 260 staffers in Bonn, are out of work, the result of the party's disastrous showing in Sunday's first all-German elections since 1932.
The puckish Greens -- who opposed German unification and thus found themselves largely ignored in a year when little else mattered to many Germans -- lost about half of their support in the former West Germany. They received only 4.8 percent of the vote, just below the 5 percent hurdle parties must clear to be awarded seats in Parliament.
In large cities and university towns, where the Greens were especially popular, voters turned away from the party's environmentalism and pacifism en masse. Greens' support in the university town of Heidelberg dropped from 20 percent in 1987 to 10 percent Sunday and fell from 11 percent to 5.8 percent in the northern metropolis of Hamburg.
The news struck the party's offices this morning like a nuclear accident. Workers learned they would have to clear out in two weeks. "We knew our numbers would go down, but to be out of the Parliament entirely -- that no one expected," said Joern Boehme, the party's Middle East specialist.
"We fell under the wheels of German unification," party spokesman Christian Stroebele said today at a press conference. "The many historic days of the past year pushed other social and ecological issues into the background."
From their grassroots beginning in 1979 to their entrance into the governing coalitions of West Berlin and Lower Saxony in the last two years, the Greens struggled to maintain their counterculture perspective. Even as they sat in Parliament, they considered themselves political amateurs and outsiders.
An outgrowth of the protest movements of the 1960s, the West German Greens were the first environmental group to become a major political player in a Western nation. Before and after they entered Parliament on a wave of anti-nuclear sentiment in 1983, they pushed for nothing less than a remaking of Western society. The Greens were anti-nuclear, anti-military, anti-industry, anti-materialism, anti-city and anti-career.
They were also, some Greens conceded today, anti-success. The party was so adamant about expressing its anti-authoritarian philosophy that it ended up working against itself, some Greens said. While the other German parties combined their eastern and western chapters for Sunday's vote, the Greens, intent on nurturing the cultural differences between the two Germanys, maintained two separate parties. Their combined tallies would have kept the Greens in Parliament.
Two East German Greens will be in the new Parliament as part of Alliance 90, the collection of grass-roots groups that organized last year's East German revolution and went on to win eight seats Sunday.
Today, many Greens promised to renew the party. But they were divided, as usual, about how. Some want a return to ecological basics. Others want a new emphasis on unification's social problems.
"This result is a rejection of the permanent internal fighting in the party," said Werner Kaltefleiter, director of the Institute of Political Science in Kiel and a longtime observer of the Greens.
"All parties in Germany now have strong environmental positions, and the public still considers the environment perhaps the most important issue in the country," he said. "But the Greens lost their monopoly on this issue. It's still too early to write them off, but their period of influence is over."