German Greens back weakened leader Baerbock after polls slump

German Greens back weakened leader Baerbock after polls slump
Annalena Baerbock at the Green party conference on Saturday. credit: dpa | Kay Nietfeld
Members of the German Greens party on Saturday officially nominated Annalena Baerbock as their candidate to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel, despite recent setbacks and slip-ups that Baerbock herself acknowledged.

Green delegates voted by a huge majority of 98.5 percent for the party to be co-led by Baerbock, who is to be the candidate for chancellor, and Robert Habeck.

Baerbock, 40, was clearly relieved at the result, and voiced regret for “errors” that had “really bothered” her and which have weakened support for the environmental party ahead of general elections scheduled for September 26.

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She thanked party delegates for providing a “tail wind, especially after the headwind of recent weeks”.

A week ago, the party was hammered in a regional vote in Saxony-Anhalt as its focus on climate protection failed to resonate with electors in Germany’s poorest state.

The Greens garnered just six percent of the vote, less than a point higher than in the last state election in 2016.

Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) scored a resounding win with 37 percent of the vote, pushing the far-right AfD into a distant second place with 21 percent.

The strong outcome put wind in the sails of CDU leader Armin Laschet, Baerbock’s main opponent to run Europe’s top economy after 16 years with Merkel at the helm.

A national poll this week by public television station ARD had the CDU at 28 percent, while the Greens slipped by six points from the previous month to 20 percent.

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Baerbock is held responsible in large part for the drop, owing to her failure to declare to parliament a bonus she had received from the party.

In addition, inaccuracies on her CV that have since been corrected undermined the Green’s message of improved transparency.

Comments by Habeck on a visit to Kiev last month that appeared to back supplying arms to Ukraine added to negative headlines, even though he quickly rowed them back.

Green proposals for hiking petrol prices and cutting back domestic flights in favour of rail and bus connections have also gone down badly in some quarters.

Senior Green officials admit it will now be an uphill battle to counter conservative bids to paint them as a party for latte-sipping, electric
vehicle-driving urbanites.


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