Germany’s Greens to put forward first chancellor candidate

Germany's opposition Greens party, currently surging in the polls, said Wednesday it would name its first chancellor candidate this month ahead of September's general election to replace Angela Merkel.

Germany's Greens to put forward first chancellor candidate
Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck in March 2021. Photo: DPA

The centre-left ecologist party said its leadership would tap one of its co-presidents, Annalena Baerbock or Robert Habeck, on April 19th, with final approval expected at a party congress in June.

“We have a strong duo at the top with Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck for the general election 2021,” the Greens’ executive director Michael Kellner tweeted.

“And on April 19th we’ll present which of the two will take on the chancellor candidacy. #AllesistDrin (Anything’s Possible).”

While both Baerbock, 40, and Habeck, 51, have said they want to lead their party into the election, they have long stated they want to take the decision by consensus.

A poll by the Forsa institute Wednesday put Baerbock slightly ahead of Habeck in voter preference.

Who will be the conservative candidate?

The Greens’ move throws down the gauntlet to Merkel’s ruling CDU/CSU conservatives, who have said they would name their top candidate between Easter last weekend and Pentecost on May 23rd.

The battle is between CDU chief Armin Laschet, who has repeatedly sparred with Merkel over coronavirus shutdown measures, and the far more popular CSU head Markus Soeder, who as Bavarian state premier has largely toed the chancellor’s line in the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Germany after Merkel – does the new CDU leader have what it takes to be future chancellor?

The CDU/CSU, which has played a dominant role in German post-war politics for decades, is polling at around 27 percent, with the Greens hot on their heels at about 23 percent.

The conservatives have suffered a dramatic reversal of fortune in the wake of the raging third wave of the virus outbreak, a sluggish vaccine rollout and a rash of corruption allegations against several MPs.

The numbers suggest the most likely election outcome would be a first-ever federal government made up of the conservatives and the Greens when Merkel retires after 16 years at the helm of Europe’s top economy.

But analysts haven’t ruled out a Greens victory.

If it shapes up to be a race of Laschet versus Baerbock, “the probability that the Greens may win and lead the next German government may rise from 25 percent to at least 30 percent and possibly to 35 percent, in our view,”

Berenberg Bank’s chief economist Holger Schmieding said. The Greens served as junior partners in a Social Democrat-led German government 1998-2005 and have occasionally linked up with the CDU at the state level.

The Social Democrats, trailing badly at about 15 percent, have named Finance Minister Olaf Scholz as their candidate for chancellor.

READ MORE: Life after Merkel: Is Germany ready to think about what’s next?

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‘Russia must not win this war,’ says Germany’s Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged once again to stand with Ukraine against Russia - but said Ukraine's bid to join the EU cannot be sped up.

'Russia must not win this war,' says Germany's Scholz

Scholz said the war in Ukraine was the greatest crisis facing the EU in its history, but that solidarity was strong. 

“We are all united by one goal: Russia must not win this war, Ukraine must prevail,” Scholz said in the speech to the Bundestag on Thursday.

Putin thinks he can use bombs to dictate the terms for peace, the SPD politician said. 

“He’s wrong. He was wrong in judging the unity of Ukrainians, and the determination of our alliances. Russia will not dictate peace because the Ukrainians won’t accept it and we won’t accept it.”

Scholz said it was only when Putin understands that he cannot break Ukraine’s defence capability that he would “be prepared to seriously negotiate peace”.

For this, he said, it is important to strengthen Ukraine’s defences. 

Scholz also pledged to help cut Europe free from its reliance on Russian energy. 

The Chancellor welcomed the accession of Finland and Sweden to Nato. “With you at our side, Nato, Europe will become stronger and safer,” he said.

However, Scholz dampened expectations for Ukraine’s quick accession to the EU.

“There are no shortcuts on the way to the EU,” Scholz said, adding that an exception for Ukraine would be unfair to the Western Balkan countries also seeking membership.

“The accession process is not a matter of a few months or years,” he said.

Scholz had in April called for Western Balkan countries’ efforts to join the EU to be accelerated amid a “new era” in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Last October, EU leaders at a summit in Slovenia only reiterated their “commitment to the enlargement process” in a statement that disappointed the six candidates for EU membership — Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo – who had hoped for a concrete timetable.

“For years, they have been undertaking intensive reforms and preparing for accession,” Scholz said on Thursday.

“It is not only a question of our credibility that we keep our promises to them. Today more than ever, their integration is also in our strategic interest,” he said.

The chancellor said he would be attending the EU summit at the end of May “with the clear message that the Western Balkans belong in the European Union”.

Scholz also called for other ways to help Ukraine in the short term, saying the priority was to “concentrate on supporting Ukraine quickly and pragmatically”.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has also said it will take “decades” for a candidate like Ukraine to join the EU, and suggested building a broader political club beyond the bloc that could also include Britain.