Germany's Greens must protect their Achilles' heel

Co-leaders of Germany's Green Party Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck walk along Berlin's river Spree

Co-leaders of Germany's Green Party Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck walk along Berlin's river Spree - Credit: AFP via Getty Images

TANIT KOCH on just how close the Green Party are to power in Germany... and how they could throw it all away.

Remember the many Britons who got hold of an EU passport after the 2016 referendum via the odd Irish granny? You may be among them.

If you could now make that work vice versa, there’s a huge business opportunity waiting for you. Tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of us Germans would peacefully (and only temporarily, promise!) invade the UK to get the jab.

Because after our government handed yet another blow to AstraZeneca by suspending its use – despite scientific proof that it is less dangerous than the contraceptive pill – a lot of Germans would love to escape the "AstraNomical" madness in Europe.

Had Berlin stopped administering the AstraZeneca jab last week, Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrat (CDU) party’s losses in the state elections on Sunday would have probably been bigger still.

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The Greens would have gained even more support in Rheinland-Pfalz, aka the Palatinate (How do you guys even pronounce that?), in the local elections in Hesse, and for Winfried Kretschmann, the now thrice-triumphant Ministerpräsident of Baden-Württemberg. 

Ten years ago, just after Fukushima, he became the first-ever Green to run a German state. At the time, it felt as if Norfolk had voted Corbyn. Because the “Ländle” (Fatherland of Mercedes, Porsche, Bosch and Kehrwoche – where the tenants of apartment buildings take weekly turns in cleaning the stairwell), is deeply conservative and mostly rural.

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The 72-year-old common sense Catholic Kretschmann, who has a 1970s history as a commie but is now regularly at odds with the ideological killjoy-wing of his party, has proven to the rest of Germany that Green government is possible without turning the Autobahn into a cycle path.

His success in running one of the economically most powerful parts of Germany in a coalition with the CDU has helped the Greens to a stable 20% in the national polls for two years now, ahead of the Social Democrats and sometimes even neck to neck with the CDU.

Markus Söder, leader of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union, warned this week that a conservative chancellor wasn’t a given. That there was a “theoretical majority beyond the CDU”.

If, for instance, the female Merkel-electorate turned green after her departure from politics, it could well turn into a practical majority. And the Greens, whether on stage or in conversation, cannot hide their desire to be back in power, after nearly 20 years of withdrawal symptoms. So they’ve been schmoozing a lot with the CDU. But given the chance, they wouldn’t hesitate to grab the chancellery for themselves. 

Things have looked favourable for the Greens before, though, in the safe haven of the opposition, unbadgered by the press. Will popularity last this time? A Green Party veteran once told me this: electoral success depends on three things – charismatic leadership, the manifesto and discipline. 

Charisma-wise, the Green’s leadership duo Annalena Baerbock and her side-kick Robert Habeck tick the box (cuddly pics with horses, very Instagramable). Their manifesto has nailed the Zeitgeist. 

But each time during the last three campaigns, in the run-up to election day, the possibility of a Grinch-green state-centric party reared its head, because someone couldn’t shut up: high-ranking Greens promoting compulsory veggie days for staff canteens, introducing speed limits, a war on cars. And each time the negative press coverage cost them at the polling booths.

Only recently, a prominent Green declared that detached houses were less eco-friendly, immediately alarming journalists. Oh, and detached house-owners. Difficult as this must be for a former hippie-rumpus-party, if they want that electoral success, it’ll all come down to discipline.

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