BOCHUM, Germany—The Woman who want to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel stepped on stage in sneakers and a leather jacket, behind her the steel skeleton of An in disused coal mine tower, for her a sea of expectant faces. the warm-up acting, a guy with draped an Elvis crest in a rainbow flag, sang “Imagine”.
Annalena Baerbock, the Green Party candidate for chancellor, asks Germans to do just Which. To imagine a country powered entirely by renewable energy. Imagine a relative unknown and not tested 40-year-old as them next chancellor. to introduce her party, die has never been before run Germany, leading the government after next election of the month.
“This election is not just over what happens in the next four years, it goes over our future’, Mrs. Baerbock told the crowd, as she took her case to a… traditional coal region that closed his last mine three years ago.
“We need change to keep what we love and cherish,” she said in this is not necessarily hostile, but skeptical territory. “Change takes courage, and change is on the mood on 26th September.”
Only how a lot of change Germans really want after 16 years of Mrs Merkel remains being seen. the chancellor made himself indispensable to navigate through countless crises – financial, migrants, populists and pandemic – and strengthening Germany’s leadership on the continent. Other candidates are: compete to see who can be the most like her.
Mrs. Baerbock, on the other hand, wants to shake up the status quo. She challenges Germans to deal with the crises die Mrs Merkel has? left largely unattended: decarbonising the powerful automobile sector; weaning the land off coal; rethink trade relationships with strategic competitors like China and Russia.
It’s not always an easy sell. In an unusually close race, there is still one outside chance that will be the Greens catch up with Germany’s two sitting parties. But even if they don’t, there’s almost no combination of imaginable parties in the next coalition government they don’t belong there. That is what makes Mrs Baerbock, her ideas and her party of central importance for Germany future.
But Germans still get know her.
A competitive trampoline in her youth who became a legislator at the age of 32 and has two young daughters, Mrs. Baerbock bolted on Germany’s national political scene just three years ago when she was elected one of the two leaders of the Greens. “Annalena Who?” one the newspaper asked at the time.
After being nominated in April as the Greens first- once chancellor-candidate, Mrs Baerbock made a short jump past her rivals in Germany’s long-dominant parties: Armin Laschet, the leader of the Christian Democrats and Olaf Scholz of the centre-left social democrats, who now leads the race.
But she fell behind after repeatedly stumbling. Rivals accused Ms Baerbock of plagiarism after revelations die she had failed attributing certain passages in a recently published book. Inaccurate labeling of some of her memberships led to headlines over her stuffing up her resume.
More recently, she and her party failed to grasp on the deadly floods die made fatalities more than 180 people in West Germany to give her energy campaign, even as catastrophe catapulted climate change — the Greens’ flagship issue – to the top of the political agenda.
Hoping to reset her campaign, Mrs. Baerbock, on a journey in An bright vegetable double-decker bus covered in solar panels, keeps its pitch to German voters in 45 cities and towns in the whole country.
It was no coincidence that her first stop was the industrial heartland of Germany, in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, that was bad hit by floods this summer and is run by Mr Laschet, who has been criticized for disaster management.
“Climate change is not something that happens far away in other countries, climate change is with us here and now,” Mrs Baerbock said to a crowd of a few hundred students, workers and young parents with their children in Bochum.
“Rich people will always in be able to buy their way out, but most of all people can’t,” she said. “That’s why climate change and social justice are two sides of same coin for me.”
Leaving the stage with her microphone, Mrs Baerbock then mingled with the public and took to ask on each range of topics — managing schools during the pandemic, cybersecurity — and apologizing for her early missteps.
“Yes, we have made mistakes, and I am annoyed with myself,” she said. “But I know where I want to go.”
if there is one thing that sets Ms Baerbock apart from her rivals, it’s this relative openness and youthful confidence combined with a bold vision. She is the next generation of a Green Party die has been around for a long time way since its inception as a radical “anti-party partyFour decades ago.
In die beginning time was opposition, not rule, the goal.
For Ms. Baerbock, “government is radical”.
Her party’s evolution from a fringe protest movement to a serious contender to power in many ways reflects her own biography.
Born in 1980, she’s as old as her party. When she was a toddler, her parents took her to anti-NATO protests. By the time they joined the Greens as a student in 2005, the party had his . completed first stint in government as the junior partner of the social democrats.
Meanwhile, many voters have come to see the Greens as a party that has matured while it remains true to his principles. It’s proenvironment, pro-Europe and unashamedly pro-immigration.
Ms Baerbock proposes to spend 50 billion euros, about $59 billion, in green investments per piece year for a decade to fund Germany’s transformation into a carbon neutral country economy — and pay for deleting it by the strict balance of the country budget rule.
She would raise taxes on top earners and set rates on import die not be CO2 neutral. She imagines solar panels on each roof, a world-class electric car industry, a higher minimum wage and climate subsidies for die with low incomes. She wants team up with the United States to hard to become on China and Russia.
She is also committed to Germany’s growing diversity – the only candidate who has spoken of the moral responsibility of the country to take in some Afghan refugees, outside the country who Western troops assisted.
Ms Baerbock’s ambitions to break taboos home and in abroad – and her rise as a serious challenger of the status quo — is catching voter attention as the election approaches.
It has also made her a target of online disinformation campaigns by the far right and others. A fake nude photo of has circulated her with the caption: “I needed the money.” False quotes tell her she wants to ban all pets to minimize carbon emissions.
Mrs. Baerbock’s enemies in The mainstream conservative media didn’t keep back or, using every stumbling block die she has made.
A lot of of die who heard her speak in Bochum recently said they were impressed with her confident delivery (she spoke without notes) and her willingness to participate with voters in front of rolling camera’s.
“She focused on problems and not emotions,” says Katharina Münch, a retired teacher. “She seems really solid.”
Others were concerned over her young age and lack of experience.
“What did she do to… run for Chancellor?” said Frank Neuer, 29, a sales associate who had visited on to be way until work. “I mean, it’s… like i run for chancellor.”
Political observers say the attacks against Ms Baerbock has been disproportionate and revealing of a deeper phenomenon. Despite having a female chancellor for almost two decades, women still face tougher critical and sometimes downright sexism in German politics.
“My candidacy polarises in An way that was unthinkable for a lot of women of my age,” said Mrs Baerbock, to sit in An bright cabin met wooden panels on the highest level of her campaign bus between stops.
“In some ways what I’ve been through is similar met what happened in the US when Hillary Clinton fled,” she says added. “I stand for innovation, the others are standing for the status quo, and of naturally, die who be interested in the status quo see my candidacy as a statement of war.”
When Mrs Merkel first walked for office in 2005, at age 51, she was routinely described as Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s “girl” and did not receive just endless commentary on her haircut, but ruthless questions over her ability and readiness for office. even allies in her own party fired her as interim leader at the time.
Mrs Baerbock’s answer to this? challenges is not about her youth of to hide motherhood, but to lean on it.
“To be up for me as a mother, up until us as a society, up until us adults to be prepared for the questions of U.S children: Have you acted?” she said. “Have we done everything we can to safeguard the climate and? with it’s the freedom of U.S children?”
Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting from Berlin.
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