German Greens election lead at risk amid mutiny over use of word 'Germany' in manifesto

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Robert Habeck, left, and Annalena Baerbock, right, leaders of Germany's Green party, are potentially on the cusp of an historic victory - Kay Nietfeld /DPA 
Robert Habeck, left, and Annalena Baerbock, right, leaders of Germany's Green party, are potentially on the cusp of an historic victory - Kay Nietfeld /DPA

The German Green Party may be leading in the polls, but it is facing a bizarre grassroots revolt over the use of the word “Germany” that may yet prove its undoing ahead of September's elections.

Just four months before polls that the party has a real chance of winning for the first time ever, more than 3,000 members have backed a bid to delete any reference to Germany from the title of its manifesto.

“At the heart of our politics are people in their dignity and freedom, not Germany,” said Michael Sebastian Schneiss, a party staffer who is one of those behind the rebellion.

The move threatens to become an embarrassment for Annalena Baerbock, the Green candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor, and was immediately seized on by the party’s political rivals.

“If the Greens are so ashamed of Germany, why do they want to govern Germany?” Gordon Hoffmann of Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) wrote on Twitter.

“The Greens are against Germany, but they want to be elected and rule here!?”, tweeted Volker Wiesing of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP).

The row threatens to become an embarrassment for Annalena Baerbock, the Green candidate for chancellor - Stefanie Loos/Bloomberg
The row threatens to become an embarrassment for Annalena Baerbock, the Green candidate for chancellor - Stefanie Loos/Bloomberg

The Greens are currently leading the polls on 26 per cent, ahead of the CDU on 23 per cent, and have a genuine chance of winning and forming the next government for the first time in their history.

But the prospect of members earnestly debating how relevant Germany is to them threatens to overshadow the party conference next month, and bring back memories of the bitter ideological infighting that used to divide the Greens.

The party manifesto, unveiled to great fanfare last month, is currently entitled Germany: Everything is Here, but two motions have been submitted to the conference calling for it be changed to just Everything is Here.

Some 3,000 members including regional MPs and candidates for September’s national elections have backed the motions, meaning they will have to be debated.

Green Party leaders Annalena Baerbock (left) and Robert Habeck during a visit to the energy bunker in Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg in Hamburg - Christian Charisius/DPA
Green Party leaders Annalena Baerbock (left) and Robert Habeck during a visit to the energy bunker in Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg in Hamburg - Christian Charisius/DPA

“There are better words to describe our vision,” Julia Wimmer, one of the election candidates backing the motions told Tagesspiegel newspaper. “Of course I'm not saying that I don't want to read or hear the word ‘Germany’ anywhere."

“It’s going to be a hard party conference,” Robert Habeck, the joint party leader who, along with Ms Baerbock, is credited with bringing an end to feuding within the party, said this week.

For decades, the Greens were divided by a power struggle between the pragmatic Realos, who were prepared to embrace the centre ground to win power, and the Fundis who insisted on a hardline ecological and Left-wing stance.

When Ms Baerbock and Mr Habeck were named party leaders in 2017, the Realos widely considered to have won, and the party has since seen its support soar in the polls.

But the hardliners have not gone away. The party youth wing recently released a position paper alleging “misanthropic ideologies” are rife in the German police and calling for a complete reorganisation.

“I haven’t read so much stupidity in a long time,” commented Boris Pistories of the centre-Left Social Democrats (SPD).

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