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The son of a Yemeni diplomat leading a Green surge in central Germany

A rising star of Germany's Greens party, Tarek Al-Wazir hopes to score big in regional polls Sunday at the expense of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats.

The son of a Yemeni diplomat leading a Green surge in central Germany
Tarek Al-Wazir, top Green candidate in the Hesse state elections and Annalena Baerbock, chairwoman of the Greens. Photo: DPA

Already Hesse state's most popular politician in opinion surveys, the 47-year-old Yemeni-German could become kingmaker or possibly even state premier in the region home to Frankfurt, Germany's banking and air transport hub.

It would be a stunning rise for one of Germany's few politicians with an Arabic background, at a time when the far-right and anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has made strong gains.

The left-leaning and ecologist Greens have been polling strongly nationwide this year, in part because they have opposed most consistently the AfD and propagated an open and multicultural society.

The party, who emerged out of the 1970s peace and anti-nuclear movements, have also been the leading voice warning of climate change and automotive air pollution, issues that increasingly concern voters.

This year the Greens have also benefited from growing turmoil within Merkel's loveless “grand coalition” which has alienated voters with infighting, mostly centred on immigration.

While Merkel's CDU and her partners the Social Democrats (SPD) have both slipped by 10 percent or more in polls since Hesse elections five years ago, the Greens have doubled support to around 20-22 percent now.

This would make them the second strongest party behind the CDU, which is now polling at 26 per cent, opening up a range of possible coalition scenarios.

 'Open to the world' 

In Hesse, the Greens have been the junior governing partners to the CDU's state premier Volker Bouffier, and Al-Wazir has served as his economy, energy and transport minister.

Al-Wazir attributes his party's new fortunes to their “clear stance” against the AfD, which has railed against Merkel's decision to keep open German borders to a mass influx of mostly Muslim migrants and refugees.

“All other parties have gone crazy about the AfD,” he told conservative daily the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

“We defend a society that is open to the world and multifaceted.”

Al-Wazir himself was born to a German teacher, who would take her son to street demonstrations, and a Yemeni diplomat, Mohamed Al-Wazir.

The politician has recounted discrimination he faced in the 1970s in a society that, he recalls, labelled Italians “spaghetti eaters” and considered him a “foreigner”.

SEE ALSO: Hesse's Green party candidate Tarek Al-Wazir could become minister president

When he was born, a civil servant advised his parents to give him a German second name, suggesting Fritz — a proposal they declined.

Only after a legislative change in 1975 was Al-Wazir able to assume German as well as Yemeni citizenship.

'High time for change' 

He grew up in Offenbach, a medium-sized city which has the largest proportion of people with a migrant background in Germany, at over 62 percent.

At age 14, he left for Sanaa where his father lives and for two years attended an international school, a time he says allowed him to “discover the other half of (my) origins, to get to know my family and to learn Arabic”.

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Al-Wazir, still in a German high school, joined the Greens in Hesse, the home state of party veteran Joschka Fischer who went on to serve as Germany's foreign minister from 1998 to 2005.

When he was 24, Al-Wazir joined the regional parliament and quickly rose to lead the party in the chamber.

Today, the father-of-two, who is married to a Yemeni woman, is regularly voted the most popular politician in Hesse state.

This week, amid growing international outrage over the Saudi killing of a dissident journalist, Al-Wazir made a strong plea for an end of German arms shipments that could worsen the war in Yemen.

Calling the bloody conflict in his father's country “the world's worst man-made humanitarian catastrophe”, Al-Wazir said that “now it is high time to change the policies of Germany” on defence exports.

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POLITICS

Ex-chancellor Schröder sues German Bundestag for removing perks

Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has sued the German parliament for removing some of his official post-retirement perks over his links to Russian energy giants, his lawyer said Friday.

Ex-chancellor Schröder sues German Bundestag for removing perks

Schröder, 78, has come under heavy criticism for his proximity to Russian President Vladimir Putin and involvement with state-backed energy companies.

The decision to suspend Schröder’s taxpayer-funded office and staff in May was “contrary to the rule of law”, Michael Nagel, told public broadcaster NDR.

Schröder “heard of everything through the media”, Nagel said, noting that the Social Democrat had asked for a hearing before the budget committee responsible but was not given the chance to express himself.

READ ALSO: Germany strips Schröder of official perks over Russia ties

Schröder’s lawyers filed the complaint with an administrative Berlin court, a spokesman for the court confirmed.

In its decision to strip him of the perks, the committee concluded that Schröder, who served as chancellor from 1998 to 2005, “no longer upholds the continuing obligations of his office”.

Most of Schröder’s office staff had already quit before the final ruling was made.

Despite resigning from the board of Russian oil company Rosneft and turning down a post on the supervisory board of gas giant Gazprom in May, Schröder has maintained close ties with the Kremlin.

The former chancellor met Putin in July, after which he said Moscow was ready for a “negotiated solution” to the war in Ukraine — comments branded as “disgusting” by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Last week, the Social Democrats concluded that Schröder would be allowed to remain a member after he was found not have breached party rules over his ties to the Russian President.

Schröder’s stance on the war and solo diplomacy has made him an embarrassment to the SPD, which is also the party of current Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

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