The German Greens have confirmed Annalena Baerbock as their candidate for chancellor in September’s election, during a party conference in Berlin. Receiving a near unanimous 98.5%, Baerbock accepted, saying that she predicted a “duel” with Germany’s CDU-CSU conservatives.
“For the first time in decades, real change is in the air,” she told the 688 Greens delegates taking part in the hybrid Berlin-based conference, many of whom joined remotely via video call.
The conference’s confirmation also applied to co-chair Robert Habeck, who joins Baerbock to lead the Greens’ campaign for Germany’s September election. The duo first emerged as party co-leaders in 2018, with Baerbock having no cabinet experience and being previously little known by the public.
She continued: “Now is the moment to renew our country. And everything is within reach,” as she offered industry sectors a “binding” pact to reimburse funds from climate neutral economics previously supported by the Greens.
But, the confirmation didn’t go entirely to plan for Baerbock. After delivering a 45 minute address, as she left the stage she said “scheisse!” into a still-live microphone, reports POLITICO. The blunder came after she was frustrated by an apparent mistake in her speech, which may have been overlooked had it not been for this slip of the tongue at the last minute.
The mishap has left critics questioning if the 40-year-old is ready for office, especially when considering that this latest blunder is one of several.
Baerbock had a successful launch to her campaign in April, with her face appearing on the cover of Germany’s leading magazines and securing interview slots on primetime television. In some polls, she was racing ahead of the long-dominant Christian Democrats, creating speculation that she may succeed Angela Merkel in September. A young and energetic mother of two, she represented a shake-up to the system after 16 years of Angel Merkel leading the nation.
Soon, however, support faltered. Publications that had previously sung her praises changed their stance. Der Spiegel christened her “A Woman for All Seasons” in their April cover, but in a more recent feature a few weeks later she was pictured holding a windswept sunflower under the caption “Welcome to Reality’.
Baerbock was hit with difficult questions about her inability to report ancillary income she received from her party and about her failure to explain inconsistencies on her official CV, contradicting her party’s commitment to transparency and integrity. She has also faced concerns that she is too green to lead the country, referring not to her policies but to her lack of experience.
Despite an encouraging start, Baerbock’s depleting support is showing in national polls. A few weeks ago in May, she led all three candidates in the running for chancellor, polling at 48%, according to a ZDF poll. Now, an ARD poll shows the Greens’ support to have dropped down to 20%, giving the CDU/CSU an eight point lead. Regionally, the party is also facing depleted support. In the regional election in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, the Greens received just 5.9% of the vote which was much less than expected.
Baerbock remains optimistic, saying that “one thing is clear for us: the starting point for the national election is completely different. After the pandemic, the focus must be on revitalising this country together. That is why we are running as Alliance 90/The Greens.”