30th Jul 2021

German Greens face reality check amid CDU gains

  • Germany's CDU chancellor-candidate Armin Laschet (r) greeted by EU Commission president and fellow German CDU member, Ursula von der Leyen (Photo: European Commission)

Armin Laschet, the head of chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party has said he would prefer to govern with the liberal Free Democrats - criticising the Greens for their demand for higher taxes.

Laschet, Merkel's would-be-heir after the September general elections, spoke to Bild am Sonntag newspaper as the Greens continued a slump in opinion polls, despite topping them just a month ago.

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Support for the Greens has declined to 20 percent, according to an Insa poll for Bild am Sonntag, while the Christian Democrats (CDU) plus sister Christian Social Union (CSU) have retaken first place with 27 percent.

Another poll by ARD television last week put the CDU/SCU at 28 percent, with the Greens at 20 percent after a six percentage point drop against to a month ago. However, the liberal FDP party itself is only polling around 12-13 percent - making a simple conservative/liberal coalition unlikely.

Laschet in the interview rejected the Greens' calls for tax increases, higher airfares, and a €12 per hour minimum wage.

"Tax increases surely are a completely wrong idea after the kind of crisis we've been through in recent months," he said.

He also added that the energy transition must be "socially acceptable," a line also used by central European EU governments when wanting to negotiate a slower green transformation, with more funds.

The comments came after on Saturday (12 June) the Greens officially nominated Annalena Baerbock as their chancellor candidate to replace Merkel.

A month ago there were high hopes among Greens that she could clinch the chancellory as the first Green leader of the country.

However, the 40-year old Baerbock has come under fire for failing to declare to the parliament a Christmas bonus she received from the party, and errors on her CV, which seem to have contributed to the Greens' decrease in polls.

Baerbock expressed regret on Saturday for the mistakes.

Critics have rounded on the incidents as proof of the party's lack of professionalism and experience, and it has tainted the Greens' image of transparency.

However, criticism directed at the Greens was amplified by comments by the party's co-leader Robert Habeck on arming Ukraine, after he met Ukraine's president in Kiev in late May. He later clarified that he favoured supplying Ukraine with defensive arms to protect its citizens.

The party also needs to rebut its image of a party for regulations and rules if it wants to regain some of the lost momentum at the polls.

Translating enthusiasm for fighting climate change among some voters to actual votes is also proving to be more difficult.

Green plans for increasing petrol prices and improving rail and bus connections to make short-haul flights obsolete have also been met with scepticism by conservative voters.

A week ago, the Green party took just six percent of the vote in a regional elections in Saxony-Anhalt as its focus on climate protection failed to resonate with voters in Germany's poorest state.

That vote, on the other hand, gave a boost to Laschet and the CDU.

Nevertheless, Baerbock told green delegates that "for the first time in decades change is in the air."

"An era is coming to an end, and we have the chance to found a new one," she said, referring to the end of Merkel's 16 years at the helm of the EU's biggest economy.

In the meantime, Laschet also said he supports increased military spending, adding that Germany should uphold its Nato promise to spend two-percent of GDP on defence.

"In Africa and around the Mediterranean, Germany must do more," he added.

The Greens rejected the two-percent target, arguing it is costly and arbitrary.

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