By James Moules
A SEISMIC shift could be coming to the German politics as the surge of the Green Party could land them in government.
The German Greens (formally Alliance 90/The Greens) nominated Annalena Baerbock, 40, as their candidate for Chancellor in the upcoming federal election in September. One of the party’s co-leaders, she was selected over her fellow leader Robert Habeck.
Her nomination comes at a time when the Greens are rapidly climbing in the polls, currently averaging second place behind the ruling centre-right CDU/CSU.
Baerbock is characterised as a centrist Green, and her party’s growing poll numbers have given rise to speculation that she may be in with a shot of securing the highest office in government.
Professor James Sloam, a politics expert at Royal Holloway University, told Redaction Politics: “At the moment, the Greens are riding high in the polls. Will this continue? In previous elections, the Green surge has subsided the closer we get to an election. However, this time I think it will be different.
“First, the Greens now have a pragmatic and charismatic leader. Second, they have shown that they can govern effectively – eg. in the state of Baden-Wurtemberg. Third, the climate crisis is not going away – in fact, it should increase in prominence as we head toward the UN COP26 summit in Glasgow in November.”
Angela Merkel, the current Chancellor of Germany, is not seeking re-election this year, bringing a close to her lengthy tenure. She has held the office since November 2005, and is only Germany’s third Chancellor since reunification.
The CDU (Christian Democratic Union – Merkel’s party) has usually led in the polls since the last election in 2017, although it has been rapidly losing ground to the Greens in recent weeks.
The party’s new leader Armin Laschet has been selected as its candidate for Chancellor, following a row with its Bavarian sister party the CSU’s leader Markus Söder over who should lead the alliance into the election. Polling suggested that Söder was a more popular candidate among the public than Laschet.
Since the announcement of the Chancellorship nominations, Baerbock has fared strongly in preferred Chancellor polls, with a recent Forsa poll putting her as the favourite with 32 per cent. Just 15 per cent favoured Laschet and 13 per cent opted for the centre-left SPD’s nominee Olaf Scholz.
But most party polls from April 2021 still placed the CDU/CSU in the lead overall.
Professor Sloam added: “Nevertheless, the Greens are still a few percentage points behind the CDU/CSU, so the most likely outcome is a CDU/CSU-Green Government led by Laschet.
“So, I am confident with the current polling numbers, that the Greens will be in government, but not leading the government – the current coalition of Social Democrats and Christian Democrats need a surge in support to replicate the current coalition.
“However, the upcoming COP26 summit could create a perfect storm for the Greens to surge past the Christian Democrats to form a Green-led Government – probably still with the Christian Democrats.
“Green Party participation in government would be a massive boost for the COP26 green agenda. A Green Chancellor in Germany would be transformational for this agenda.”
The rise of the Greens could see the party replace the SPD as the long standing main centre-left party in Germany.
Since the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949, every single German Chancellor has come from either the CDU or the SPD.
However, the SPD’s polling fortunes have declined substantially in recent years, with the previous election in 2017 producing its worst result in the Federal Republic’s history with only 20.5 per cent of the vote.
Current polling trends suggest that their result this year could be even worse still.
The SPD is currently in a “Grand Coalition” government with Merkel’s CDU. A similar arrangement was also in place following the 2005 and 2013 federal elections, with the SPD only being in opposition under Merkel between 2009 and 2013.
Professor Sloam said: “The SPD’s decision to stay in coalition with the Christian Democrats at the federal election four years ago was a huge strategic mistake. By clinging to power – even as their support fell – with a Chancellor who is centrist and takes credit for taking on many SPD policies, the party is now widely viewed as merely an appendage of the Christian Democrats with no story of its own to tell.
“The Greens, on the other hand, have a much clearer agenda that people see as increasingly relevant in the midst of the climate emergency.”
Olaf Scholz, the SPD candidate for Chancellor, is currently serving as Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister of Finance in the Grand Coalition.
“The SPD may rise slightly in the polls – Scholz is relatively popular in the country. However, it will be interesting to see where they get their support from,” Professor Sloam added.
“If they gain support from the Christian Democrats – after all, Scholz is seen as a good manager rather than someone who will transform the country – there is an outside possibility of a coalition with the Greens.
“However, I don’t see them overtaking the Greens this time for the reasons above, so this scenario would result in a Baerbock chancellors with the SPD and possibly even the Left Party as junior coalition partners.”
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