Markus Söder, Bavarian state premier and potential conservative contender for chancellor, has ruled out a coalition with the Green party. But he was equally scathing about the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).
The leader of Angela Merkel's Bavarian conservative allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU), has dismissed Germany's resurgent Green party.
Speaking to a raucous crowd in a beer tent in Passau, Bavaria, on Wednesday, Bavarian state premier Markus Söder showed he was determined to hold a center-right line despite the dwindling coalition options for Germany's conservatives.
Söder, for some a potential chancellor candidate for the "Union," the long-standing alliance between the Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and the CSU, said, "I'm happy to hug trees, but that's the only green thing I will embrace."
The irreverent rhetoric was typical for a so-called "Political Ash Wednesday" speech, a southern German pre-Lent free-for-all when politicians address a boozy party gathering and use sharper language to describe their political rivals.
"Are [the Greens] really the new stars?" he asked. "Are they really doing everything better? Can they really walk on water? … Sure, we can admit they're charming, they look good. [Green party leaders] Mr. Habeck and Ms. Baerbock are significantly better-looking than the SPD leaders. But that's not that difficult. Just objectively. Says my wife."
A new center
Poll numbers suggest there is no longer a majority in Germany for a centrist government allying the CDU/CSU with the Social Democrats (SPD), while the Greens, traditionally environmentalist but adopting a center-left stance, have made significant gains in urban centers in recent regional elections.
With the SPD leaning further left under its new leadership of Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans, there has been some speculation about a possible coalition between a post-Merkel CDU and the Greens after the next election, scheduled for fall 2021.
Despite this new political landscape, Söder stubbornly stuck to old conservative attack lines on the Greens: a Green chancellor, he said, would give Germans "bans and preaching," as well as higher taxes, greater state debt, and bans to new heating systems as well as expropriation. This, he claimed, would amount to "green socialism, and we won't do that."
At the same time, Söder reserved ire for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), a populist nationalist force that has made some in-roads in rural regions. "If we don't watch out, the brown poison will seep out even more and poison our democratic ground water."
Germany's political landscape was shaken up in early February when a pro-business Free Democrat was elected state premier of Thuringia by the state parliament with support from CDU and AfD parliamentarians.
The Thuringian AfD was itself notorious because its leader, Björn Höcke, is considered the chief figure in the most hardcore nativist branch of the AfD, the so-called "Wing." A German court has already ruled that calling Höcke a "fascist" is not libelous.
"Why are we legally allowed to call Mr Höcke a Nazi, my dear friends?" Söder asked the crowd. "Because he is one!"