In a historic outcome for the German Greens, the party earned 14.8% of the national vote and sixteen parliamentary seats in the September 25th federal elections. The party came third in the elections behind outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel’s party the CDU-CSU (Christian Democrat Union/Christian Social Union) who received 24.1% of the vote. Olaf Scholz’s SDP (Social Democrats) won the election with 25.7% of the vote. Traditionally a fringe party in Germany, the Greens, led by 40 year old Annalena Baerbock, had exceptional success this election cycle.
While the Green Party has had elected representatives serving in Germany for years now, changes in the party’s previously combative rhetoric, along with increasing awareness of climate change among the German population helped make this 2021 election campaign their most successful yet.
Climate Change Beginning to Hit Hard at Home
Record rainfall in July 2021, more than likely linked to climate change according to experts, resulted in massive flooding across Western Europe. While flooding was seen all throughout the region, Germany was by far the hardest hit country. At the peak of the crisis, over 1 300 people were reported missing in the western district of Ahrweiler and 15 000 police, national guardsmen and emergency services workers were deployed to deal with the disaster. Floodwaters destroyed entire villages and caused the deaths of 196 people in Germany. The devastation led then-chancellor Angela Merkel to state that the German people “have to hurry, [and] get faster in the fight against climate change.”
While the Greens ultimately finished third in the September elections, the results seem to demonstrate an eagerness to tackle climate change that had not previously been seen in Germany.
The Green Party, in fact, received so much support this election cycle that polls early on in the race made them out as favourites. Blunders by co-party leader Annalena Baerbock, however proved to be too much to overcome as allegations of CV embellishment, plagiarism and failure to declare supplementary income resulted in a dip in her popularity.
A Bright Future in Store for the German Greens
Despite not coming out with the win, experts believe that this is only the beginning of a highly increased presence in the political sphere for the German Greens.
With the election results being so close, talks of the formation of a coalition government are underway in Germany. In an interesting twist for Green Party supporters, according to director of Europe at Eurasia Group Naz Masraff, “developments […] suggests stars are aligning for a ‘traffic light’ coalition between the SDP, the Greens and the FDP.”
While the details of any coalition government are yet to be ironed out, the Greens have shown that they are ready to make a true impact in Germany and Europe.