April 11, 2023 - 2:30pm

One of the things the Green Party in Germany could always count on was the popularity of its leadership. Joschka Fischer, the former foreign minister and first elected Green federal politician, was consistently one of the most broadly liked German politicians. Fischer knew very well how to use this popularity to push for a political agenda that was not always popular with the Green base — as with German participation in the Kosovo war.

It was moves like this that made Fischer the face of the so-called “Realo-Wing” (realist wing) of the Green party. Its members were Left-populist during election campaigns but knew that the reality of governing is not the same as being an opposition party. In many ways, the “Realos” made the Greens an almost mundane party in bourgeois Germany.

Alas, it did not last: the leadership around Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock, now officially under 29-year-old Ricarda Lang and political veteran Omid Nouripour, has decided to stay truer to Green principles. These principles were formulated by the so-called “fundamentalist wing” of the party, which is characterised by the rejection of the capitalist-industrial structure of Germany and a desire to replace it with their vision of an eco-economy that would do without modern forms of energy or production.

As it currently turns out, however, those principles might not be as popular with average Germans as one would have thought. A recent poll by the opinion research institute INSA shows Habeck is no longer among the country’s 10 most popular politicians, and Baerbock has fallen to eighth. To put this into context: a similar poll taken in November 2022 had Baerbock in first place, only slightly ahead of Habeck. But now the pair are even less popular than finance minister Christian Lindner, whose FDP didn’t even meet the necessary threshold to remain a party in the regional parliaments of Berlin and Lower Saxony.

Not surprisingly, the falling popularity of its most prominent faces is dragging the Green Party down in the polls as well: only 15.5% of voters would give them their vote, while the Alternative for Germany — a Right-wing party that exists in a permanent state of dysfunction — would garner 16%. Yet what should really worry the Greens is that, on the question of which party has the best climate policy, their support fell by 15 percentage points from 47% to 32% — and the most used answer in the questionnaire was “no party”.

The fall from popular favour began when Habeck refused to make concessions that from January 2024 all new heating systems in Germany must be 65% renewable, which basically means mandatory heat pumps. Most Germans do not believe that renewables will suffice to cover the country’s electricity needs in the future, so these plans are extremely unpopular. The same is true for the Green push to end the internal combustion engine, to which two-thirds of the German population are opposed. Evidently, the party has ignored the pride, not to mention employment, that the car industry generates for the Germans and their economy.

Even on the question of nuclear energy, Habeck and his circle are alienating vast swathes of the German public. While the Government opposes nuclear at every turn, the population has shown more pragmatism on the issue, with 65% supporting its continued use. On a visit to Kyiv last week, Habeck said during an interview that the Ukrainian nuclear power plants should continue to operate — “after all, they have already been built,” he said. But then why is Germany planning to take its last remaining reactors offline next week, despite them all being in top condition? 

After Joschka Fischer, many Germans believed that once in government even the most radical Greens will become Realos, so a vote for them was not seen as a particular risk. This attitude is changing, as are the Greens’ election prospects.