Not only "madness" or "unbelievable" are frequently used words by the NRW Greens after the election.

But also: respect.

The election result tripled, third strongest force in the state parliament, won direct mandates for the first time, kingmaker of the next government – ​​all of this is a reason to celebrate.

But also a great responsibility.

"Almost every fifth person in North Rhine-Westphalia voted for us," says Felix Banaszak, who is state chairman together with top candidate Mona Neubaur, on Sunday evening of the FAZ. "We are all aware of the great responsibility that such an election result means."

Oliver Georgi

Editor in the politics of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday newspaper.

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With their electoral success, the Greens in North Rhine-Westphalia have risen to become a decisive third force - and the expectations that weigh on them after the election night are enormous.

Without them, no government can be formed in Düsseldorf.

On the one hand, this is an exceptionally comfortable situation, because it is not the election winner Hendrik Wüst from the CDU, but actually Mona Neubaur, the top candidate of the Greens, who will decide on the next government.

Mathematically, a black-green alliance and a traffic light coalition are possible;

Nobody in North Rhine-Westphalia wants a grand coalition.

Because the FDP has still entered the state parliament, the favorite option of most of the Greens, which some had hoped for during the course of the election night: a red-green coalition, is also eliminated.

Many reservations about black-green at the base

That's tricky for Neubaur: either she enters into the third black-green alliance in Germany after Hamburg and Hesse, which would have a great signal effect for Berlin in the most populous and politically most important federal state and would be seen as a success by the Union.

Or she dares to try to help Thomas Kutschaty's defeated SPD into the state chancellery and to dupe the election winner Wüst.

For the soul of the party, which is traditionally located on the left in the Rhine and Ruhr, that would be like balm.

Politically, however, it would be extremely risky.

The only problem is that many at the party base have more or less reservations about a black-green alliance.

Neubaur herself is considered to be quite open to such an alliance, even if she does not comment publicly on it.

Federal Greens: The decision lies solely in NRW

In general, one can make many tactical mistakes even with such an election result;

That's why the Greens went to great lengths on Sunday to rhetorically keep all options in limbo.

No, there is no preference between black-green and a traffic light coalition, that is decided solely on the basis of the content, said co-state chairman Banaszak of the FAZ. And no, there is also no announcement from the federal party in the traffic light coalition.

"We have the clear signal from the federal association that we can freely decide the coalition issue here."

But the acid test is still ahead of the Greens.

During the election campaign, they were still able to make themselves comfortable on the outside line, receive niceties from the CDU and SPD, such as the coal phase-out as early as 2030, which Wüst announced, and otherwise enjoy watching Wüst and Kutschaty rake each other.

But now Neubaur, who has rebuilt her party after the 2017 election debacle in recent years and, above all, made it compatible in many ways, will have to programmatically show her colors: Are the Greens in NRW still left-wing or already bourgeois?

Where are the pain limits for Neubaur, beyond which no "strong green handwriting" is recognizable, which she announced on Sunday evening for the future government?

It will now also have to be shown how Neubaur, who has neither parliamentary nor government experience, masters the task as a possible Vice Prime Minister from the start.

In recent years, Neubaur has repositioned the NRW Greens, especially in terms of economic policy.

In her government program, which she presented a few days ago, she named ambitious goals: 1,000 wind turbines within five years, photovoltaic systems beyond the motorways, an expansion of public transport.

The native Bavarian wants to create nothing less than a “climate change” in NRW and make the state the first climate-neutral industrial region in Europe.

Not only in Düsseldorf will it be closely observed how Neubaur, who gets along well with Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck, takes on these ambitious goals - possibly as future Minister of Economics.

And the Greens in North Rhine-Westphalia should be measured by something else in the future: by their self-declared claim to stand for a new political communication, like their role models Annalena Baerbock and, above all, Robert Habeck.

"During the election campaign, I met many people who really appreciate the open communication that the two cultivate," said Felix Banaszak, co-chairman of the state and member of the Bundestag, on Sunday evening.

That is also the claim of the Greens in NRW.

"It was rewarded that we didn't tell people crap."

"Greens must justify leap of faith"

Neubaur also repeatedly said that the voters had given the Greens a big “leap of faith”.

And that it is now necessary to justify this advance payment and translate it into political action.

Great expectations can be followed by even greater disappointments - the Greens in North Rhine-Westphalia are well aware of this after their election victory.

Many would have voted green for the first time this time, because of Baerbock and Habeck, but also because of Mona Neubaur's "fantastic work" on the Rhine and Ruhr, Banaszak said proudly to the FAZ.

In the next five years, the Greens in Düsseldorf will want the first time not to be the last.