German voters will go to the polls on September 26. As the country’s general elections quickly approach, there is every chance that Annalena Baerbock will become the next German Chancellor at the end of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 16-year term. For several weeks now, the Baerbock party–the Greens–takes first place in most opinion polls, ahead of Merkel’s CDU / CSU.
For a while it was not known which of their two leaders–Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck – The Greens are reportedly running for a Chancellery race. Then, on April 19, the group finally confirmed Annalena Baerbock as a candidate. Forty-year-old Baerbock is said to be the youngest chancellor in the history of the Federal Republic. She would also be the most left-wing chancellor Germany has ever seen.
She studied politics and international law and has been co-leader of the German Greens since January 2018, a role she shares with Robert Habeck. The Greens see themselves as a feminist party, and this is perhaps the deciding factor as to why Baerbock was chosen as the party’s candidate for chancellor.
In the last federal election on September 24, 2017, the Greens won just 8.9% of the vote, making it the smallest of the six parties in the German parliament. According to the latest polls, the Greens should get between 24 and 28% of the vote this time around. The same poll places the CDU / CSU (the Christian Democrats, Angela Merkel’s ruling party) in second place, behind the Greens, for the very first time. Of course, it’s still quite possible that this will change by September.
Whatever happens, the Greens will exert a decisive influence on the policies of the next German federal government. After all, the only coalition governments imaginable after the September elections all imply that the Greens hold the chancellery or at least take a very strong second place. Germany may well end up with a left-wing government led by the Greens in coalition with the SPD and Die Linke. The latest polls suggest that these three parties together would command a comprehensive parliament. The Social Democrats (SPD) have swung sharply to the left in recent years–they have more in common with Bernie Sanders than Joe Biden. Die Linke is the latest incarnation of the former Communist Party that ruled East Germany (after several name changes). The party is led by Trotskyist Janine Wissler.
In another scenario, the Greens could form a coalition with the CDU / CSU. Both parties have declared themselves open to this idea. Less likely, but not entirely out of the question, is a Green-led federal government with the pro-market SPD and FDP.
In terms of European policy, the Greens are committed to going beyond nation states to establish a âEuropean Federal Republicâ. In pursuit of this final objective, the political group wants âthe EU to be given an instrument to create its own permanent fiscal policy, the use of which cannot be blocked by individual countries in the event of a crisisâ. Essentially, this would mean disempowering national parliaments and enforcing minimum wages and high social standards across Europe.
When it comes to international relations, Baerbock wants Germany’s foreign policy to be guided almost exclusively by moral principles. Economic interests, realpolitik concerns and security policy, on the other hand, play no role. For example, the Greens intend to be tougher in their relations with China and Russia. But the political party also criticizes the United States and rejects the idea of ââspending 2% of gross domestic product on defense.
Domestically, there is also the very controversial issue of immigration. Since 2015, Annalena Baerbock has supported Angela Merkel’s open border immigration policy. The Green Party’s electoral manifesto even goes so far as to advocate a âwelcoming immigration policyâ. And right now the Greens are trying to fire a popular politician, Boris Palmer, the mayor of the city of TÃ¼bingen, from the party. He has sharply criticized his party’s open border policy and Baerbock has accused him of being a “racist” in recent days. Palmer responded by attacking the party for its “cancellation culture.”
One of the main distinguishing characteristics of the Greens is the way in which the political party remains detached from the business sector. About 44 percent of party members are civil servants or work in the public sector, and civil servants also represent the largest group among party supporters. In terms of economic policy, the Greens defend an extremely strong role for the state. As a âlast resortâ, they called for the nationalization of real estate companies. In the German capital, Berlin, the Greens are actively supporting an initiative to nationalize housing companies that own more than three thousand rental apartments.
Then there is the wealth tax, which was abolished in Germany in 1997. The Greens want to reintroduce it on assets of 2 million euros or more. High income earners would also be required to pay more than 50% income tax. On these issues, the political party shares a lot of ground with the SPD and Die Linke, who have rallied around calls for the reintroduction of wealth tax and significant increases in income tax. If Die Linke was successful, the top tax rate would be increased to 75%. Entrepreneurs, in particular, have been confused by the prospects of a left-wing tripartite government, and many are already considering leaving Germany if that is what Germany ends up doing.
Annalena Baerbock is currently taking advantage of the fact that the media – especially German TV channels – seem sympathetic to her. Many journalists seem to have an inherent affinity for his party. The quasi-state television channels, ARD and ZDF, have done nothing to hide their bias. The other day a Conservative journalist asked whether the television and radio license fees (8 billion euros per year), which all Germans are required to pay, could not be considered as tax-deductible political donations to Green. Some observers have even claimed that Merkel would rather see Baerbock succeed her as chancellor rather than a man from her own party.
Rainer Zitelmann is a German historian and sociologist.