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Germany’s Greens are about to name their candidate for Chancellor — and this time, they have a chance

FILE PHOTO: Leaders of Germany’s Green Party Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock are seen after being re-elected as party leaders during the delegates’ conference in Bielefeld, Germany November 16, 2019. REUTERS/Leon Kuegeler/File Photo – LEON KUEGELER/REUTERS

While Germany has been focused on the battle over who will lead Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) into September’s elections, her eventual successor as chancellor could be named by a rival party on Monday

The German Greens are set to their candidate for the chancellorship today, and for the first time the party has a genuine chance of winning power.

Either Robert Habeck, a former academic and novelist, or Annalena Baerbock, a career politician, will be named as the Green candidate — and if the polls are right they, rather than the CDU candidate, could end up inheriting the keys to the chancellery from Mrs Merkel in September.

The Greens are currently second in the polls on 23 per cent. Mrs Merkel’s CDU is still ahead on 27 per cent — but its support has dropped a shocking 10 points since January. A rival coalition of the Greens and left-leaning parties might have the votes to unseat the CDU in September — and the Greens could be the biggest party in the bloc.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by CLEMENS BILAN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (11854541c) Green party (Die Gruenen) co-chairman Robert Habeck attends a press conference in Berlin, Germany, 12 April 2021. The Greens are about to present their candidate for chancellorship for the September 2021 federal elections on 19 April 2021. The candidacy will be decided between the co-chairs Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck. Press conference of Greens party co-chairman Robert Habeck, Berlin, Germany - 12 Apr 2021 - CLEMENS BILAN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Mandatory Credit: Photo by CLEMENS BILAN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (11854541c) Green party (Die Gruenen) co-chairman Robert Habeck attends a press conference in Berlin, Germany, 12 April 2021. The Greens are about to present their candidate for chancellorship for the September 2021 federal elections on 19 April 2021. The candidacy will be decided between the co-chairs Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck. Press conference of Greens party co-chairman Robert Habeck, Berlin, Germany – 12 Apr 2021 – CLEMENS BILAN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Mr Habeck and Ms Baerbock have both been key to the party’s recent success. For years the Greens were divided by bitter infighting between hardline environmentalists known as the Fundis and the more pragmatic, centrist Realos.

When Mr Habeck and Ms Baerbock were named as joint leaders in 2018 it was a signal the fighting was over — and the Realos had won. For the first time both leaders were pragmatists prepared to occupy the centre ground. But now the party faces an agonising choice between its two standard bearers.

It has been a very civilised affair, compared to race for the CDU candidacy. For a long time the 51-year-old Mr Habeck seemed the obvious choice. He was the more charismatic of the two, with a direct, unpolished style that appealed to voters tired of smooth-talking politicians — he refuses to wear a tie — and he had experience in regional government.

But as the novelty wore off his at times donnish manner has begun to grate and there have been gaffes. He tweeted he was happy there was “finally democracy in Bavaria again” after the Greens made gains there, and was castigated for telling German television Thuringia, a region in the former communist east, would “one day” be democratic.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 19, 2021 the leaders of the Green party Annalena Baerbock (L) and Robert Habeck present the draft of their party's electoral program in Berlin, ahead of the German general election taking place end of September 2021. - Germany's opposition Greens party, currently surging in the polls, said on April 7, 2021 it would name its first chancellor candidate this month ahead of September's general election to replace Angela Merkel. The centre-left ecologist party said its leadership would tap one of its co-presidents, Annalena Baerbock or Robert Habeck, on April 19, with final approval expected at a party congress in June. (Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP) (Photo by JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images) - JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 19, 2021 the leaders of the Green party Annalena Baerbock (L) and Robert Habeck present the draft of their party’s electoral program in Berlin, ahead of the German general election taking place end of September 2021. – Germany’s opposition Greens party, currently surging in the polls, said on April 7, 2021 it would name its first chancellor candidate this month ahead of September’s general election to replace Angela Merkel. The centre-left ecologist party said its leadership would tap one of its co-presidents, Annalena Baerbock or Robert Habeck, on April 19, with final approval expected at a party congress in June. (Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP) (Photo by JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images) – JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP

The gaffes have made the Greens think again about the more polished Ms Baerbock. It is no secret they would like to be the only major party put forward a woman for chancellor in September — two men are vying for the CDU nomination, and a third has already been named as the Social Democrats’ (SPD) candidate.

Indeed, when Ms Baerbock became joint party leader there were jibes she was only there to fill the gender quota. With no government experience, she seemed in Mr Habeck’s shadow, and she had a reputation as a boring policy wonk. But she has looked increasingly assured in recent months, intervening in press conferences when Mr Habeck’s answer was too vague. “Chickens, pigs, milking cows, that’s Roberts field,” she once said. “Mine is international law.”

“Nobody falls from the sky as chancellor,” she told Bild newspaper, dismissing concerns she is too inexperienced for the job. “Three years as party leader, MP and the mother of small children toughens you pretty well.”


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