It seemed possible at the beginning of this year. The leader of the German Greens party, Annalena Baerbock, had a chance to become the successor of waving Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In the meantime, the party has fallen to third place in the polls: they fluctuate between 15 and 20 percent. While climate remains the most important theme during the elections on 26 September, especially after the floods that plagued the country in July. The party struggles with the question: how do you pull voters out of the middle without losing your traditional rank?
In the state of Baden-Württemberg, a moderate green course is a proven recipe. For more than ten years, a green prime minister has been at the helm: Winfried Kretschmann. A ‘Realpolitiker’, who has an eye for the climate as well as the interests of the industry.
There is no escaping that either: Baden-Württemberg is the cradle of major car brands such as Daimler and Porsche and supplier Bosch. Kretschmann has worked remarkably smoothly in a coalition with the CDU for five years.
This could be a blueprint for how the Greens want to deal with it in Berlin. The party makes no secret that they want to rule: preferably with the SPD, but also with the CDU. And yes, there is compromise, says second man of the party, Robert Habeck at a campaign meeting in Stuttgart.
“The Paris climate targets are unnegotiable, which we have to meet,” says Habeck. “But how to get there, for example, whether the coal plants need to close earlier or the heating of houses is being dealt with first, of course there is something to slide there.”
The Greens no longer want to be just a party for left-wing highly educated voters. The party also wants to attract the more conservative voters in the middle. However, they don‘t seem to be really hot for the leader Annalena Baerbock. Due to a series of errors, the high expectations of early this year have tempered a lot.
At the campaign meeting, where all sorts of voters come to get informed about the party, people wonder if Baerbock can handle responsibility for Europe’s largest economy. “She‘s still too inexperienced for my taste. I would have preferred Habeck to become a leader,” says a woman who came to see her family.
Correspondent Wouter Zwart explains in this video why the German elections are also very important for Dutch people:
The traditional supporters of the Greens live to ensure that the party moves too much to the middle. You can hear that sound, for example, in Vauban in Freiburg, which is also known as the “greenest district in Germany”.
In the early 1990s, anti-nuclear activists and other environmentally conscious Germans built a neighborhood on a former French military site according to the latest ecological insights.
The result is a city where the green ery explodes from all cracks and the cargo bikes, children and chickens compete for space on the street:
Andreas Delleske is one of Vauban’s pioneers. He co-built the so-called passive houses in the district, which are so well insulated that they are practically energy neutral. With a pleasant by-catch: he pays less than 130 euros in energy costs per year.
Delleske has been voting green all his life, but considers their plan to tackle climate crisis far too limp. “We don‘t have time for compromise at all. We should pull the plug. Have to live radically different. Flying, for example, should not be allowed anymore, except for emergencies.”
That kind of measures will certainly not hear the Greens propose. They have now become reluctant to be portrayed as the party of the bans. Disappointing, Delleske thinks. Yet they can still count on his voice: “They are the only party where you read back in the program a little bit that they understand that there is a threat of catastrophe.”
In Stuttgart, Habeck also asked whether he is not afraid to scare the supporters away. “Of course you shouldn’t sell your soul. But we don‘t. We try to deliver our message so that it appeals to as many people as possible and they give us their trust. That’s what politics is too. The battle for the middle is also our struggle to decide with.”