Could the 40 year old Green nominee win September’s election?
Finland has one. New Zealand has one. Is Germany about to join the list of countries with young, dynamic female premiers breathing new life into democratic politics?
Forty-year old Annalena Baerbock co-leads the German Green Party and if recent polls are correct then her party is on course for a stunning performance in the autumn federal elections. A young mother from Lower Saxony, she is said to be tough and steely, with an astonishing grasp of detail. And she’s a former champion trampolinist who can still do a quick handstand for photographers; facts that have got the metaphor monkeys busy on the news subs desks.
In early April she was named the party’s first-ever Chancellor candidate, a decision that took many commentators by surprise as they were expecting her charismatic and popular co-leader Robert Habeck to carry the non-carbon fuel torch into battle. Yet the decision seems to have been a joint and happily made one and has clear political benefits. As one Green political adviser told the FT: “It’s a crazy advantage for us to put up the younger, energetic woman against all these old white men”.
Baerbock is wildly popular with her membership and has had a superfast rise through the green ranks; clearly highly ambitious and yet, unusually in politics, as a Spiegel biog piece recently noted, despite the obvious thirst for power, there are no “bodies on the side of the road”. She is a regular on TV talk shows and Germany is warming to her call for wholesale renewal in the federal republic.
She is from the realistic wing of the environmental campaign. Within the German Green movement, after years of intense battles, the realos have gained the upper hand over the fundis, and have marched the party towards the ‘radical’ centre ground faster than a Blairite think tank. In part their new found popularity is a response by increasing numbers of Germans to issue of climate change. As Baerbock constantly argues: “Climate change is the task of our time, the task of my generation.”
The Greens are surging as the established parties (the CDU and SPD) struggle. The latest polling has the Greens just ahead of the CDU at 28%. If this pans out in the actual election then the environmentalists are about to blow a non-nuclear, organic tofu bomb through German and indeed EU politics. The change happening in Germany is breathtaking: only four years ago the Greens were on a LibDem-style 8%. Even if they come 2nd, most pundits think it is almost certain the party will be in government. There is much talk of a Green-Black coalition between conservatives and the environmentalists.
The most likely outcome reports the NewStatesman is that Baerbock becomes vice-Chancellor in such an alliance, but it notes that it is conceivable that the Greens end up as largest party in a three way ‘traffic light’ coalition with SPD and the FDP. In that case, Annalena is the new Chancellor.
The BBC’s Berlin correspondent cautions though: “The Greens often over-poll and underperform. Voters like to sound virtuous and say they’ll vote Green. But when it come to election day, traditional loyalties and pragmatic concerns over the economy kick in.”
But Sascha Müller-Kraenner, executive director of Deutsche Umwelthilfe (Environmental Action Germany), says: “The trampoline story plays well. When you jump so high, you can’t be sure where you land.”
I’m on, at 3.6
Rotten is long-standing poster on PB who was heavily involved in local politics in the Midlands before retiring to lick his wounds.