Green party names Baerbock as challenger for Merkel’s crown

Published April 20, 2021
A MARCH 12, 2018, file photo shows Annalena Baerbock at a press conference in Berlin.—AP
A MARCH 12, 2018, file photo shows Annalena Baerbock at a press conference in Berlin.—AP

BERLIN: Germany’s Green party on Monday named co-chair Annalena Baerbock as its candidate to succeed Angela Merkel, throwing down the gauntlet to the chancellor’s conservatives who are locked in increasingly vicious infighting for her crown.

Trained lawyer Baerbock, 40, became the first chancellor candidate for the party, as surging support for Greens brings it within reach of the chancellery.

Both Baerbock and her fellow co-chair Robert Habeck, 51, had coveted the job to lead the party into elections on Sept 26.

“But in the end, only one can do it. So today is the moment to say that the Greens’ first chancellor candidate will be Annalena Baerbock,” said Habeck.

With her candidacy, Baer­bock said she was making an “offer to the entire society”.

“Climate change is the task our of time, the task of my generation. And accordingly, I want the policies of the new federal government to make climate protection the benchmark for all sectors,” she pledged.

The carefully choreographed announcement stood in sharp contrast to a bruising power struggle that has sent Merkel’s CDU-CSU alliance to the brink of implosion.

Ahead of Monday’s announcement, the Greens had shown strict discipline in preventing any internal wrangling from spilling out into the public.

Surveys show the centre-left party just a touch behind Merkel’s conservatives — who are in disarray as the veteran chancellor prepares to bow out after 16 years in power.

Baerbock voiced “great concern” that the ruling conservatives are “faltering” at a time of “great challenges”.

Besides a damaging power struggle, Merkel’s alliance is also suffering in the polls over the public’s frustration over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

In contrast, the ecologist party has quietly benefited from a firm line seeking tougher measures to curb coronavirus transmission.

The Greens’ environmentalist platform also dovetails with the priorities of many younger Germans, who rattled the political establishment with school strikes for climate protection until the pandemic put such gatherings on ice.

The decision to name a chancellor candidate is a clear sign that the party which played a junior role in Gerhard Schroeder’s coalition from 1998 to 2005 are now no longer content with settling for a kingmaker role.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2021

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