For the first time in its history, Germany’s surging Green Party is naming a candidate for chancellor on Monday.
The two candidates, Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock, have co-led the Greens since 2018 a time when the party has surfed a wave of popularity.
Five months before Germany goes to the polls in federal elections the party is running in second place, behind Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU conservative bloc and in front of her current coalition partners, the centre-left Social Democrats.
With around 20 percent of the electorate saying they would support them in September’s elections; the Greens stand to gain dozens of seats in the Bundestag parliament.
If successful they would have a strong claim to a place in whatever post-Merkel coalition government comes next.
But on Monday they were aiming even higher, the chancellor’s office.
With some polls showing Merkel’s conservatives slipping below 30 percent, Germany’s first ever national coalition between the CDU/CSU and the Greens could be a realistic option after the elections.
However, if the CDU/CSU was unable to regain momentum in the build-up to the September election, the Greens could stand a chance of another historic first: laying claim to the chancellorship.
This could also be with the Greens heading up a new three-party coalition government, possibly including the Social Democrats and the pro-business Free Democrats.
The 51-year-old Habeck is the more seasoned politician.
He was environment minister in his home state of Schleswig-Holstein for six years.
He was the intellectual centre of the party and has several books, including children’s titles, under his belt.
Unusually for a German politician but like Merkel Habeck has no personal Twitter account. He withdrew from social media in 2019 after a data hack and following criticism of his tweets about state politics.
Baerbock in contrast tweets regularly about key Green issues but also international politics. She has been a Bundestag lawmaker for the Greens since 2013, and since 2018 has formed with Habeck a telegenic, harmonious pairing at the top of the party.
The 40-year-old, who was born in Lower Saxony and lives with her family in Potsdam just outside the capital, won bronze three times in the German trampoline championships.
A poll published on Friday by public broadcaster ZDF showed 42 percent of German voters backing Habeck as the party’s chancellor candidate with 29 percent supporting Baerbock.
However, Green party supporters were evenly split when it comes to deciding between the two candidates.
Unlike the acrimonious power struggle over who would lead the conservative CDU/CSU bloc into the elections, the Greens have kept their decision-making drama free and under wraps, in the hope that it would reflect well on their credentials as a coherent political force.
The naming of a candidate on Monday won’t count as the final decision that would come during a party conference in June, when the party also signs off on its election manifesto.