There was that moment when it looked like they could do it. As if the Greens could become the strongest force. While the Union dismantled itself in the dispute over its candidate for chancellor and the SPD and its candidate Olaf Scholz seemed to be forgotten again, Annalena Baerbock stepped forward.
Without drama, without arguments. The Greens were disciplined and united, united in their enthusiasm for their candidate. And the surveys also initially proved them right. The party passed the Union in several polls in April and May.
Even then, the green member of the Bundestag Konstantin von Notz warned on Twitter, the polls are encouraging. “But most of all, they show how volatile the mood is.” He turned out to be right.
The tide has been turning for a few weeks now: The Union has not only taken back leadership, but is also steadily increasing its distance to the Greens. A current survey by Insa sees the Greens even below 20 percent – and thus nine percentage points behind CDU / CSU chancellor candidate Armin Laschet and almost on a par with the SPD.
Baerbock is in a different position than their competition
On the one hand, this actually shows how changeable the mood among voters is three months before the federal election and how much can still happen in the election campaign. On the other hand, the development of the polls suggests the special position of the Greens in the fight for the Chancellery.
Annalena Baerbock is applying for Angela Merkel’s successor from a completely different position than her competitors Laschet and Scholz. Baerbock is the only candidate who is fighting for the Chancellery from within the opposition. The Greens have not been part of a federal government since 2005. In addition: Baerbock is the only candidate without her own government experience.
While the SPD and Union are surrounded by an aura of the familiar, the Greens are the surprise bag among the possible chancellor parties. You have an idea what could be inside – but you only really know when you open it. That can help if the desire for change is great enough. But it is currently becoming a challenge for the party.
The image of the Greens as the party of disciplined unity that was drawn when the candidate for chancellor was announced is frayed. There were, for example, the problems of Baerbock herself: her reported income, the criticism of inaccuracies in her résumé. In a SPIEGEL survey, 69 percent of those questioned recently stated that they do not want the Green party leader as Chancellor.
Crises in the regional associations
But there are also rumors in other parts of the party. The green federal party is currently looking with horror at the events in the Saarland state association. There, at a controversial party congress last weekend, the former state chairman Hubert Ulrich was elected to number one on the state list for the federal election. Ulrich’s opponents not only accuse him of manipulating the election, but also denounce that the Greens’ women’s statute, which actually envisages a woman as the top candidate, may have been violated. “We wanted it differently,” criticized Baerbock. The federal managing director Michael Kellner also warned of the political damage to the party and called for the state list to be checked again.
As a result of the dispute, several members of the Saarland state executive resigned on Friday, including chairman Ralph Rouget, who had been elected only five days earlier. The candidate in second place on the list, Irina Gaydukova, is said to have left the party entirely. At the party congress, Gaydukova obviously had difficulties in answering fundamental substantive questions and was later violently attacked on social networks. The impression: At least in the far west, the Greens are currently more about chaos than stability.
On Friday, Baden-Württemberg’s Green Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann came under fire because he suggested in an interview with the Stuttgarter Zeitung that tough interventions in civil liberties be made possible in order to get pandemics under control more quickly. The excitement was great, the FDP parliamentary deputy in the Bundestag Michael Theurer even spoke of the “temptations of the authoritarian”. Kretschmann then quickly rowed back, the proportionality must of course be observed. That something like this happens to Kretschmann, the bourgeois-conservative lighthouse of the Greens, the trustworthy Auto-Swabian, is probably particularly inconvenient for the Greens right now.
Change and Security
Because actually the Greens need exactly what Kretschmann stands for in the election campaign: green politics, but always paired with a paternal knock on the back and the assurance that change will not hurt anyone.
For the Greens and their candidate for chancellor, incidents like those in Saarland or Baden-Württemberg are so difficult because, as a party, they are particularly dependent on instilling trust in the people. “People’s greatest need is the continuation of what exists,” explains Albrecht von Lucke, publicist and editor at the newspapers for German and international politics. Every offer for change must therefore always be accompanied by a security promise. “That’s the dilemma. Especially for a party like the Greens, which voters have to give a leap of faith. “
The Greens have to constantly justify why voters should get involved in a renewal of Germany at all – as Baerbock advertises in her book. The party has to present its ideas without scaring people away. It must not only stimulate people’s willingness to change, but also exude persistence.
In contrast to the two governing parties, the Greens cannot play for time. The SPD and the Union represent a status quo that is likely to appear increasingly attractive to many – especially as the vaccination campaign progresses and the corona numbers decline. It was not for nothing that satisfaction with the work of the federal government was at a high level last summer, when the incidences were low and normality was palpable. The Greens, on the other hand, will have to keep pointing out why they could be the better alternative – even when everything feels good right now.
But the more divided the party is and the more mistakes happen, the less certain the Greens appear. And the less willing voters will be to get involved in the green chancellor experiment.
For Baerbock this means: there are still three months left. “Everything is still included,” as it says in the green election manifesto – even the Chancellery. But if someone has to walk a special tightrope on the way, it will be the Greens.