Annalena Baerbock: Germany's Greens stand by under-fire candidate

Party co-leader Robert Habeck rejects suggestions he could take over candidacy

FILE PHOTO: Leaders of Germany's Green Party Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock are seen during the delegates' conference in Bielefeld, Germany November 16, 2019. REUTERS/Leon Kuegeler/File Photo
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Germany’s Greens have rejected suggestions that their struggling candidate Annalena Baerbock could be replaced before September’s general election.

Ms Baerbock, 40, enjoyed a bounce in the polls when she was chosen as the Green nominee in April.

But the party’s bid to rule Germany for the first time has been damaged by a series of controversies involving the former trampolining medallist.

They include errors on her CV, an undeclared Christmas bonus and accusations of plagiarism in a book published by Ms Baerbock, which she denies.

With Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc enjoying a resurgence of support, the Greens are more than 10 points behind in some recent polls.

Two polls showed the Greens tied for second place with the Social Democrats, a party they hope to eclipse as the dominant force on the left.

The flagging Green campaign has led to calls for Ms Baerbock to stand aside in favour of the party’s charismatic co-leader Robert Habeck.

Ms Baerbock and Mr Habeck were elected joint leaders in 2018 and were credited with expanding party support and credibility.

But Mr Habeck stood aside in favour of Ms Baerbock when it came to choosing a nominee to succeed Ms Merkel as chancellor.

He brushed off suggestions this week that the party could switch its candidacy in the final weeks of the campaign.

“We made a decision, we considered everything,” he said. “The decision stands and now it’s about making it into a success.”

Asked why the party’s election posters appeared to be downplaying Ms Baerbock’s candidacy, campaign manager Michael Kellner said personalities would come to the fore when the election battle begins in earnest next month.

“We are strong together in our team and we have a strong duo for this election,” he said.

With Ms Merkel standing down after 16 years in office, her CDU/CSU bloc is putting forward Armin Laschet as its candidate for the election.

Polls have shown Mr Laschet, 60, the premier of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, gaining on Ms Baerbock in personal poll ratings.

Olaf Scholz, Germany’s Finance Minister, is the nominee of the Social Democrats.

With climate issues set to be an important issue on the campaign trail, Mr Laschet promised to speed up efforts to make Germany climate neutral by 2045.

"If we want fewer people to fly, we have to build railways faster, for example. Everything is going much too slowly," he said.

But Mr Kellner said it was unclear how Mr Laschet intended to reach his climate goals.

“We have to act now. You cannot keep trying to please everybody without having your own compass,” he said.

Updated: July 13, 2021, 11:43 AM