Berlin, 19 April 2021 (dpa/MIA) – Germany’s Green Party, which is surging in the polls, has for the first time named a candidate for chancellor to lead its campaign into September’s elections.
Annalena Baerbock, a party co-leader since 2018, will be only the second woman of any political party in Germany to run as a formal candidate for chancellor since 1949, following outgoing incumbent Angela Merkel.
Baerbock, 40, described her nomination on Monday – expected to be formally approved by a party conference in June – as a “renewal” in German politics and a departure from the status quo.
The Greens stood for “a new understanding of political leadership,” she said, in a wide-ranging speech that encompassed not only environmental issues such as climate change, but also the coronavirus crisis, industrial competition, European politics and German innovation.
Monday’s announcement is a statement of intent from the Greens: In previous national elections, the party had named leading candidates for the polls, but no specific candidate for chancellor.
Five months before the elections, the Greens are now running in second place, behind Merkel’s CDU/CSU and in front of the centre-right bloc’s current coalition partners, the centre-left Social Democrats.
With around 20 per cent of the electorate saying they would support them in September’s elections, the Greens stand to gain dozens of seats in the Bundestag parliament.
If successful, they would have a strong claim to a place in whatever post-Merkel coalition government comes next, including a possible national coalition between the CDU/CSU and the Greens.
However, if the CDU/CSU is unable to regain momentum in the build-up to the September election, the Greens could stand a chance of another historic first: laying claim to the chancellorship.
The Greens could head a new three-party coalition government, for example together with the Social Democrats and the pro-business Free Democrats, or alternatively, as per the Berlin city government, with the Left party as third partner.
The choice of Baerbock could raise eyebrows as she was nominated behind closed doors. The other candidate was co-leader Robert Habeck, a more seasoned politician who had higher popularity ratings among the general public.
In polls before the nomination was announced, Baerbock was an equally popular choice among Green party members. She is more visible on social media, tweeting regularly about key Green issues but also international politics.
She has been a Bundestag lawmaker for the Greens since 2013, and since 2018 has formed with Habeck a telegenic, harmonious pairing at the top of the party.
The 40-year-old, who was was born in Lower Saxony and lives with her family in Potsdam just outside the capital, won bronze three times in the German trampoline championships.