The Greens – In Unity and Harmony on the Road to Power
Less than five months to go until the federal elections and the Greens have yet to nominate their chancellor candidate. While the chancellor issue within the CDU/CSU turned into a harming public power struggle, the Greens have demonstrated unprecedented unity and harmony. This has led to a real upswing, in result of which the Greens are currently registering historically high polls of 23% – almost on a par with the CDU/CSU with 27%. But how did the environmental party become so strong and who will they nominate as their candidate for chancellor?
Strength through unity
In the recent months, the leadership duo of Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck has managed to get the Greens over the first hurdles of the 2021 super-election year by succeeding in the state elections in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate (see our previous election insight). Decisive for the upswing of the last months is their cohesive approach, which is very unusual for the Greens. In the past, the party was characterized by deep rifts between its different currents and rarely presented a harmonious picture, tending to take disputes into the public (see our previous election insight). In its newly found unity, the party, under the leadership of Baerbock and Habeck, has managed to shift the focus from the personnel debate to an issue-based discussion, and is on track to become a so-called “people’s party” with broad voter appeal. On the foundation of successes of recent months and the current historical high polls, the party must now ask itself for the first time in their history: Who is the most capable candidate for chancellor?
Characteristic of their strength is the process by which the party is selecting its candidate for chancellor. Despite the dual leadership, Baerbock and Habeck have always emphasized that they will either decide together or neither of them will run. In doing so, they are continuing to present a unified approach, avoid bringing inner-party conflicts into the public, and try to offer as little surface for attack as possible. As a result, they have their own narrative firmly under control and were able to set their own date for its decision, 19 April. This is in stark contrast to CDU/CSU which maneuvered itself into a difficult situation and is forced to decide under external pressure and with intense public confrontation.
Baerbock vs. Habeck
Because of their cohesiveness, both Baerbock and Habeck, who have led the Greens since January 27, 2018, have successfully avoided reputational damages and are entering the election race with a strong public profile. Thus, the party has a tough choice between two strong candidates.
Annalena Baerbock (40) looks back on a political career within the environmental party, in which she has held many different positions. Within her party, Baerbock is the most popular among the party’s grassroots and was able to achieve a historic result with 97,1 % of the delegates’ votes at the federal party conference in November 2019. Although Baerbock was often relegated to the background due to Robert Habecks strong political appearance, she has caught up a lot in recent months, started to guide the dual leadership and has officially stated her ambitions to become chancellor.
In his rather short political career, Robert Habeck (51) came to hold important political offices in the state government of Schleswig-Holstein and quickly rose within the party. His nomination as federal chairman was accompanied with immense media coverage, overwhelming him with expectations. For a long time, he was felt as the more charismatic and, because of his government experience, the more seasoned politician. But in recent months, he has not always been able to convince across the board and has recently been criticized for his lack of competence. As a result, there seems to have been a slight shift within the party sentiment in favor of Annalena Baerbock.
On the right course
With its current consistent and successful leadership, the party clearly sets itself apart from its biggest competitor, the CDU/CSU, whose internal power struggle has left lasting damage. Nevertheless, the Greens’ future candidate for chancellor will also have to assert him- or herself in the coming months -a monumental task given the intensity of the political debates and the scrutiny that the candidate will receive. Regardless of their choice for candidate, the Greens are on the right course for the 2021 federal election. While they are certainly benefiting from the failures of other parties, their biggest challenge will continue to be the maintenance of the peace within the party.
The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, Inc., its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.