Germany's Greens, seeking to maintain a high profile as they prepare for opposition, on Tuesday chose a combative outgoing minister and a respected former party chairman to lead them in parliament.
The Greens are the junior partner in Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's outgoing government. However, Schroeder's center-left coalition lost its majority in the Sept. 18 election and the party appears nearly certain to end up in opposition.
The Greens' 51 lawmakers elected Agriculture Minister Renate Kuenast and former co-chairman Fritz Kuhn to head their group in the new parliament. They replace a respected but less prominent pair of leaders, Katrin Goering-Eckardt and Krista Sagerб according to the AP.
If the Greens leave government, they will be the only major German party with no ministers at either the national or state level.
Although the Greens' vote held up well in the election, their 8.1 percent vote share left them as the smallest party in parliament.
"One of the main worries is that we, as the smallest group, in future will not be able to attract as much public attention in order to get our message over well," Sager, who withdrew her own leadership bid, told N-TV television.
"For me it was always clear that Renate Kuenast is the best-liked and best-known politician after Joschka Fischer, so she belongs in the front line," Sager added.
Kuhn co-chaired the party until 2002, when he was forced to step down in a dispute over leadership rules.
The Greens last week rejected talks on entering an improbable government alliance with conservative leader Angela Merkel's party and its ally, the pro-business Free Democrats.
On photo: Agriculture Minister Renate Kuenast.