DFor months, the political barometer has been looking good for Annalena Baerbock (41), Minister of Foreign Affairs, Robert Habeck (52), Minister of Economy and Climate, and Cem Özdemir (56), Minister of Agriculture. The three Green ministers are by far Germany’s favorite politicians, while the popularity of Social Democratic Chancellor Olaf Scholz is waning. It is the war in Ukraine that benefits these three newcomers to the government. Because if Robert Habeck was Minister of Agriculture of Schleswig-Holstein, Annalena Baerbock and Cem Özdemir have however never held an elected position. This enthusiasm for the three stars of the Greens is reflected at the electoral level: in the recent regional elections of Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia, respectively the most and least populated Länder of the country, the Greens doubled the SPD to flat seams.
That the conflict in Ukraine has earned the Greens such a resurgence in popularity is a paradox for this traditionally pacifist party. Elected to protect the climate and to pursue a “feminist” foreign policy, the Greens find themselves managing a war and advocating for the delivery of heavy weapons to kyiv. The Russian invasion in February radically changed the priorities of their agenda.
Robert Habeck had to resolve to negotiate the delivery of climate-damaging liquid gas with the authoritarian regime in Qatar. Annalena Baerbock fights so that, for the first time since the war, Germany sends arms to a European country at war. A realism that voters seem to appreciate. According to the latest polls, 20% of voters would vote for the Greens if elections were held tomorrow. This is 5% more than in the legislative elections last September where the Grünen won 14.8% of the vote. An honorable result, but disappointing for this party which even dreamed for a time of making Annalena Baerbock the first green chancellor of Germany. The Greens remain the party of the cities, of the wealthy and educated classes. If they are a hit in university towns, they are practically non-existent in the small rural towns of the German province.
We will be poorer than before.
Among the reasons for the current success: the Greens’ ability to communicate and explain their politics in simple terms. “We will be poorer than before”, announces Robert Habeck without taking any gloves. He does not hesitate to repeat that the war in Ukraine will continue to drive up prices, and not only those of energy. “It’s the bitter truth,” he acknowledges, while most politicians tend to embellish the situation and pride themselves on being able to influence the course of things. This frankness and this ability to explain his action with clear words that everyone understands contribute greatly to the popularity of Robert Habeck nicknamed “the phantom chancellor”.
His personality contrasts with that of Olaf Scholz. Where Scholz is monosyllabic, evasive and indecisive, Habeck is talkative, very present and sure of himself. On the burning issue of the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine, Olaf Scholz remained silent for several weeks before briefly announcing his decision without explaining it. This stiffness contrasts with the human style of the Greens who express their doubts. “Sometimes I have a stomach ache,” admits Annalena Baerbock after pleading for the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine.
The Greens, who have not been in power in Berlin since 2005, cannot be held responsible for the energy policy decided by the conservatives (CDU/CSU) and the social democrats within the Grand Coalition led by Angela Merkel. They have long adopted a very critical attitude towards Russia. They have always been opposed to the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline intended to bring Russian gas under the Baltic Sea. They have repeatedly warned against Germany’s energy dependence. While many Social Democrats, led by former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, persisted in wanting to further intensify ties with Vladimir Putin, the Greens openly condemned the aggressive policy of the Russian autocrat. Their foresight and intransigence have earned them respect today. 50% of Germans believe that Olaf Scholz is managing the Ukrainian crisis badly, against 67% who appreciate Habeck’s work and 74% that of Baerbock.