Germany’s Green party: Bickering puts Chancellor hopes in September at risk

Political parties are notorious for internicine warfare which, in striving for political purity, can take down the entire foundation.

This could be happening to the Green Party in Germany. Several weeks ago the political class in Germany was forecasting  a revolution in the nation’s leadership. Fielding a Chancellor candidate for the first time things looked very upbeat for candidate Annalena Baerbock.  Not today.

There are still over three months until the September 26 nationwide election. Plenty of time for the Greens to put their infighting behind them and rally the public in their behalf.

Excerpted from Deutsche Welle 6.10.2021

The Green party has plummeted in opinion polls. At a party conference, delegates will officially nominate Annalena Baerbock as their candidate for chancellor — despite her recent blunders. Heated debates are expected.

The tide is turning against the German Green party. Only seven and a half weeks ago the future looked rosy for the Greens. Annalena Baerbock — their young and dynamic party co-leader — had just been announced as their first candidate for chancellor. The party rose in national polls to almost 30 percent and at times even overtook the CDU and its leader Armin Laschet. The chancellorship seemed within reach for the first time in the Greens’ history.

But a lot has happened since, and the party’s campaign is faltering. The latest “Deutschlandtrend” monthly survey by pollster Infratest dimap puts the Green party at 20% voter support well behind the CDU’s 28. Support for Annalena Baerbock has plummeted by 12% putting her behind her competitors, with the Christian Democratic Union’s Armin Laschet — who had been trailing for weeks — taking the lead.

This weekend the Greens will meet for a digital party conference to agree on their election program. They will also officially nominate Baerbock as the candidate for the chancellorship by a resolution of the party conference.

She and the party need to bounce back after their poor showing in last Sunday’s regional election in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt the Greens received a disastrous just 5.9% of the vote, confirming that the Green party is not attractive for a rural east German electorate. The Green party’s success is in the west of the country and in urban areas but has failed in the region that used to be the communist East German GDR. That region has become the, is the stronghold of the far-right AfD.

Since its founding 40 years ago, the Green party conferences have been famous for their heated debates. Since Habeck and Baerbock took the lead in 2018 observers were surprised to witness carefully choreographed glossed-over events. The Greens have turned mainstream, wrote the commentators.

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Early days in 1980’s – Greens in the streets

The days of harmony may be over now. Climate protection will once again be at the center of the party conference. But grassroots activists risked derailing proceedings by initially submitted over 3,300 amendments to the election program. Now only 20 of them are left. The words “Germany. Everything is in it” run across the program. But the requests for amendments start with the title. 300 party members have called for deleting the word “Germany,” arguing that the program should not be labeled as a national one, but rather as a program for a country in a globalized world.

This was met with scathing attacks from the domestic conservative press. The Greens want their chancellor candidate to run the country, but won’t even acknowledge it by name?  The far-right which wants to curb immigration is diametrically opposed to the Green party’s multicultural integration platform.

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Chancellor Angela Merkel and Green Chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock

At the party conference, the Green party leadership must be careful that ever-rebellious grassroots activists don’t write unachievable goals into the election program.

The Greens are already calling for a 70 percent reduction in greenhouse gases from their 1990 level by 2030. A large group of grassroots representatives wants that changed to 85 percent.

Even the 65 percent promised by the current government will only be achieved with maximum effort. The draft of the election program also calls for a speed limit of 130 kilometers per hour for the Autobahn. The grassroots activists want that cut to 100 kilometers per hour. Baerbock knows that these demands will not be received well by a majority of Germany’s car-loving population. But she thinks it is good that the party continues to place its focus on climate protection.

Suggestions like a hefty gas price hike have not gone down well with all voters last week.

Their political opponents accuse the Greens as going over the top with restrictions and regulations and curbs to individual freedom and civil liberties. And they are waiting to pounce on some radical demand. In the 2017 general election campaign, the Green party suggested introducing one mandatory “vegetarian meal day” in German schools. This “veggie day” proposal triggered an outcry and became synonymous with unjustifiable overregulation – a deadly blow to a Green party trying to take the center.


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Annalena Baerbock

Baerbock herself has also been under fire after she was forced to admit she had not initially paid tax on more than 20,000€ ($24,000)  Euro she received as a Christmas bonus from the party. She now has. Journalists also found false information in her resume, including claims that she was a member of organizations such as the respected German Marshall Fund.

As the stakes have piled up Baerbock and the Greens have seen their star falling and their dream of leading a government for the first time possibly disappearing. The Greens are now trailing the CDU by 6% to 8% depending on opinion pollsters.