A plagiarism scandal is another set-back for the party's leader
When the leader of the German Green Party Annalena Baerbock published a new book last Monday she hoped it would boost her credibility as a leader and add depth to her political profile. However, there has been very little debate around the ideas she puts forward in it. Instead, the book has made headlines because it allegedly contains vast swathes of plagiarised material.
Peppered with personal anecdotes that aim to show that there is genuine passion behind her ideas, the book practically serves as an extended party manifesto in which the chancellor candidate aims to lend credibility and depth to her party’s agenda.
However, a scandal erupted when the Austrian blogger Stefan Weber published a comprehensive scrutiny of Baerbock’s book on his website where he compares whole paragraphs from her work with sections from other books and websites. The Green Party denied it, even getting a media lawyer involved, but there is a growing consensus that plagiarism took place.
Whatever the legal ins and outs of the situation, the allegations will have a damaging effect on the Green leader in the run-up to the German elections. The more Baerbock has appeared in public, giving interviews and speeches, the more her grasp of details has been scrutinised. This book was an attempt to put allegations of vagueness and embarrassing inaccuracies to bed. Instead, the debate around the credibility of her work will reinforce the impression that she may not be fit to be chancellor.
The episode has dealt another blow to Baerbock’s already battered reputation. Earlier this month, questions were raised about the authenticity of the Green leader’s CV and qualifications, after it emerged that she had held a master’s degree in Public International Law from LSE even though she had not completed a bachelor degree first. The fact that Baerbock held a comparable qualification from the University of Hamburg did not stop her critics chipping away at her.
Whether this is a concerted campaign by political enemies to bring her down, as the Greens claim, or merely another incident among many that reinforced the public’s perception of Baerbock as a political lightweight, the popularity of the German Greens has been steadily waning since her appointment as chancellor-candidate. At one point in May, they were the highest polling party, even pipping the CDU, but now they have slipped to a miserable 18% as the CDU has soared to 28%.
After all the hype that surrounded the Green Party just a couple of months ago, it appears as though that bubble has now burst.