• Sun. Sep 26th, 2021

The green party’s search for a top candidate: three men put their shoulders to the wheel


Jul 15, 2021

In the first primary election forum for the grassroots, the four possible top candidates for the Bundestag election introduce themselves. One of them can be quite relaxed.

Two out of four: The Green Party’s top candidates get a picture Photo: dpa

The Green base has gathered on the forecourt of the Sprengel Museum in Hanover, waiting to be admitted. It is cold, about 300 members have come to be present at the first primary election forum. Some are getting impatient; 6 p.m. was the time of admission, after all. "We are the base," someone shouts and laughs.

At the end of January, the Green Party members elect the top duo for the Bundestag elections. At the primary election forum, the candidates introduce themselves for the first time. There will be ten such forums between now and January. One woman is to be a member of the team. Among the four candidates, there is only one woman, Katrin Goring-Eckardt, leader of the parliamentary group in the Bund. She is virtually set, although she doesn’t like to hear that herself. Anton Hofreiter, parliamentary group leader in the federal government, Cem ozdemir, party leader, and Robert Habeck, environment minister of Schleswig-Holstein, are fighting for the remaining seat.

The Greens want to get back into the federal government. They have been in the opposition for more than ten years. The hall is full, people stand on the wide stairs. "With 320 registrations, we have closed down," says Meta Janssen-Kucz, state chairwoman in Lower Saxony. Above all, the base wants to see the differences between the candidates.

Many are curious about Robert Habeck, the unknown face of the primary election campaign. Many have sympathy for Anton Hofreiter, the Bavarian with the deep voice and the mumbling dialect. "I saw him once, he could even inspire my 80-year-old colleague," says Hajo Janssen, a left-wing Green from the Weser-Marsch district.

The grassroots want to see the fight

The unknown Habeck wants to mix things up, he wants to be an anti-establishment candidate. One who has not yet fallen prey to crusty political-speak. "We already have to try to become capable of winning a majority over our own narrow milieu," he says. Unlike his colleagues, he is looking for a fight with the competition. He says he is troubled by the debate culture in the party, criticizing the compromise on the wealth tax, which symbolizes black-green or red-red-green, Kretschmann or Trittin. "You can’t even talk normally anymore," he says. The discussion becomes a fight, and that’s what the base wants to see. ozdemir had recently threatened a no-fly zone over Aleppo. "Who is supposed to enforce that?" Habeck says indignantly.

ozdemir, the realo from Baden-Wurttemberg, wants to tell political content through personal anecdotes. He talks about his son, who recently visited the daycare center, when the topic was the reduction of meat consumption in public institutions. There is no need for a law, he says, as the parents are already behind it. Europe and integration, those are the topics with which he wants to score points. "We are the party that holds the European flag in the air," he shouts and clenches his left fist; the rest of his sentence is lost in the clapping of the crowd.

"I am the eco," Hofreiter says, adding that this distinguishes him from the other candidates. "You’ll be better off with our solutions," he shouts, that’s what he wants to get across: be concrete. "It’s hard to negotiate when sea levels are rising," he says, and the hall applauds. In any case, one gets the feeling that the grassroots in Hanover would prefer to see "Toni" as the top candidate. But would the left get enough votes outside the "narrow milieu"? Many are asking themselves this question.

When Hofreiter speaks, Trittin also claps. "Anton, in which ministerial office do you see yourself in a black-green coalition?" is a question from the floor, read out by the moderator. "Ey, guys," Hofreiter says, and then, "It’s not enough if you give us three official cars." That’s what the CDU would have offered during the last exploratory talks.

Robert Habeck, candidate

"You can also keep ten

Keep cows shit"

Katrin Goring-Eckardt seems more relaxed than her colleagues, no wonder, actually she has nothing to lose. She wants to put pressure on the auto industry, saying it’s now about "economy and ecology." The big showdown comes at the end: Habeck and Hofreiter argue about the word "factory farming.

It is not defined in this way, says Habeck. Hofreiter counters that we know what factory farming is. Habeck cuts Hofreiter off: "You can also keep ten cows like shit," he shouts. The crowd jeers, boos and claps. In the end, it’s hard to pick a clear winner. "If you put the three of them together, it would be perfect," says Barbara Kruger, a Green Party member and part of the grassroots.

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