Greens freshen up the stale air of German politics


Newsletter: Europe Express

The appointment of Annalena Baerbock as the first candidate for chancellor of the German Greens shows the party’s ambitions to shake up a frozen political scene in the general elections in September. The political ascendancy of the Greens seems unstoppable. No government coalition now seems plausible without them, while Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, long the government’s natural party, could in all likelihood be relegated to the opposition. After years of a mind-numbing grand coalition, the political flow can only be a good thing. It gives voters more choice and a welcome chance to challenge the outdated political orthodoxies of the Merkel era when she steps down later this year.

Baerbock’s choice shows that the moderates are firmly in control of his party, a once noisy environmental protest movement torn between radicals and pragmatists. His meeting went smoothly and in a consensual manner. The Greens have shown a discipline that was once the hallmark of German conservatives. At the same time, the CDU and its sister Bavarian party were arguing over who should lead them to the elections. On Tuesday, Markus Söder, the Bavarian leader, gave up his attempt to oust Armin Laschet, the lackluster CDU party boss, as the center-right flag bearer. But with just five months before election day, the party seems increasingly torn by Merkel’s succession. A week of infighting has revealed deep concerns among MPs and the conservative base over Laschet’s candidacy.

The Greens, whose poll on Tuesday gave seven percentage points ahead of the center-right, can collect the votes of the CDU and the Social Democrats, stuck in a distant third place. The Greens’ discourse as a party of renewal against the CDU status quo is likely to resonate with voters: Laschet, a supporter of Merkel’s cautious policies, does not have the wide public appeal of the outgoing Chancellor . Baerbock, 40, stands out from his older male rivals.

She is a skillful parliamentarian who understands the details of politics, but has never held an executive position. When the initial enthusiasm for his candidacy wears off, his inexperience in government could become a handicap for the campaign. A path to the Chancellery is perhaps less likely than a strong second place, and therefore a coalition with the CDU. But a coalition of the Greens with the SPD and the pro-business Free Democrats as an alternative to one of the center-left and far-left groups will blunt one of Laschet’s strongest arguments: that voting for the Greens would allow to the former Communists to gain power from behind. door.

For the moment, the Greens have the political momentum. And they are likely to profoundly reshape German public policy, at least in relation to the cautious incrementalism of the Merkel era. The CDU and SPD have brought the stability and prosperity that many Germans seem to crave. But the last grand coalition, in particular, has done too little to prepare the country for the technological, economic and geopolitical upheavals it faces. The Greens can now question orthodoxies that have been protected, to varying degrees, by the center-right and the center-left: a lack of ambition on the energy transition; a mercantilist softness in the face of authoritarian China and Russia; fiscal rules which deprived Germany of public investment and reduced domestic demand; and lack of confidence in European integration and risk sharing in the euro area.

There are some green doctrines of concern, particularly tax policies that punish wealth and unwillingness to spend on defense. But the party brings fresh air to German politics. It is the last thing Germany needs.

Letter in response to this article:

Defining the central terrain of German politics is tricky / By Rainer Winters, editor-in-chief,, Kiel, Germany


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