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German Greens confirm Baerbock as chancellor candidate

June 12, 2021

If the Greens emerge top party at Germany's September election, their chancellery candidate Annalena Baerbock would succeed conservative Angela Merkel.

The German Greens' first ever chancellery candidate Annalena Baerbock
Annalena Baerbock will lead the Greens into the September federal electionImage: Michael Sohn/REUTERS

The German Greens party confirmed Annalena Baerbock as its chancellor candidate for the September election, during a party conference on Saturday.

Accepting her 98.5% confirmation, Baerbock forecast a "duel" with Germany's CDU-CSU conservatives, led by Angela Merkel, herself once environment minister, who is about to leave office after four terms.

"For the first time in decades, real change is in the air," Baerbock told the 688 Greens delegates participating in their hybrid Berlin-based conference, many linked remotely via video.

"Now is the moment to renew our country. And everything is within reach," she said, offering industry sectors a "binding" pact to reimburse them for additional costs resulting from climate-neutral economics long urged by the ecologist Greens.

Needed across society, said Baerbock, 40, was "inventiveness, solidarity and diversity" to tackle what she called "the great task of our time, averting the climate crisis."

Saturday's confirmation also applied to co-chair Robert Habeck, 51, placing him with Baerbock to lead the Greens' campaign for Germany's September election. They had first emerged as party co-leaders in 2018, with Baerbock previously little known by the general public.

Baerbock, 40, without cabinet experience but Greens' climate negotiator during abortive three-way coalition talks after Germany's 2017 election, conceded mistakes on Saturday.

Inexactitudes in her curriculum vitae has annoyed her "terribly," said Baerbock, whose career includes international law studies in London and trampolining. 

Facing harsh counter-lobbying by industry and other parties, Baerbock and Habeck were on Saturday handed policy planks by Greens delegates intended not to "overwhelm" voters.

Screenshot INSM Kampagne gegen Baerbock
Fridays's anti-Baerbock ad — placed by INSM, a metal and electrical industry think tankImage: insm.de

Delegates at Friday's conference opening opposed proposals to set a speed limit of 70 kilometer (56 miles) per hour on rural roads and a ban on new internal combustion vehicles as early as 2025. 

Delegates were persuaded by Greens party manager Michael Kellner Saturday to campaign for a mininum wage of €12 ($14.57) an hour in Germany, where €9.50 currently applies. Some delegates had wanted €13 an hour.

Delegates also urged more investment in Germany's education and pre-school kindergartens and its research and development sectors — to the extent of 3.5% of Germany's Gross Domestic Product by 2025.

Recent surveys placed outgoing Merkel's conservatives — Christian Democrats (CDU) and Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) — jointly on about 28%.

The Greens are placed second nationwide with about 22% in surveys — after recently eclipsing the conservatives — and despite dents in last weekend's regional assembly election in Saxony-Anhalt state.

Baerbock's elevation represents the first chancellery bid by the Greens, radical back in the 1980s but billed in recent years as pragmatic after damaging wrangles between "realos" and "fundis."

On personal rankings, Baerbock was recently placed behind the conservatives' chancellery candidate Armin Laschet and center-left Social Democrats'  (SPD) Olaf Scholz, who is currently federal finance minister and vice-chancellor in Merkel's coalition cabinet.

ipj/aw (Reuters, AFP, dpa, KNA )