A selfie with the Bavarian top candidates of the Greens: Ludwig Hartmann (middle) and Katharina Schulze.(Photo: imago / Christian Mang)
Saturday, October 13, 2018
In the state election in Bavaria, the Greens can hope for a record result – despite their anti-populist election campaign and despite a newcomer as a top candidate. How did you do that? An explanation attempt.
A few days before the state elections in Bavaria, a portrait of Katharina Schulze appears in the prestigious London business paper "Financial Times" – including a caricature of the green top candidate. The draftsman represents the 33-year-old with a big smile. In dirndl. With a measure of beer in each hand. The political newcomer of the Free State as Bavarian Barbie? Many others would have found this unflattering. But Schulze seems to be proud to be perceived abroad as the archetype of the new German Greens. On Twitter she comments the picture with a "Happy Sweat Emoji". Modern, pragmatic, home-bound – with this image, the Bavarian Greens could be the second strongest force after the CSU.
According to the current Bayern trend, the environmental party in the Free State stands at 18 percent – it would be a record result, if the forecast on Sunday should actually confirm. Only five years ago, the Greens came in the election only at 8.6 percent. The fact that the party can score points in the conservative South is somewhat surprising. After all, Bavaria is characterized by its agriculture – and a core theme of the green election program was the fight against field poisoning in the fields and antibiotics in factory farming. Nevertheless, the Greens have left behind in the polls both SPD, Free Voters and AfD. It is quite possible that Prime Minister Markus Söder will ultimately have no choice but to negotiate a black-green coalition. For the CSU man it could hardly get worse.
Schulze and her co-lead candidate Ludwig Hartmann could unexpectedly become kingmakers in the Free State – and impose a political change of direction on the Christian socials. At any rate, there is no lack of self-confidence. Party leader Robert Habeck recently made it clear in the "Augsburger Allgemeine" that possible exploratory talks could come to an abrupt end if the CSU continues to adhere to its "anti-European policy". And also the two Bavarian top candidates want to be more than the junior partner. They want to help shape politics in the Free State. Your message: We consciously strive for government responsibility – also in Bavaria. That this is not a matter of course, voters know at the latest since the difficult exploratory phase after the election to the Bundestag in 2017.
Heads instead of populism
The Greens themselves declare their success first with their anti-populist attitude. There is something on that. While the CSU at the beginning of the election campaign persuaded a constant threat situation to sell controversial measures such as the introduction of the Bavarian border police or the refoulement of refugees, stressed the Greens (also with the slogan "heart instead of hate") a more positive world view – proeuropean, humanistic , liberal. A little bit like Emmanuel Macron. With this they have reached above all those voters who feel repelled by the original populism of the AfD as well as by the xenophobic AfD borrowing by the CSU leadership. Keyword: "asylum tourism". They also benefited from the fact that they had the appropriate staff to sell their program credibly.
Mag Katharina Schulze has repeatedly been laughed at as hopelessly naive – the 33-year-old filled the halls throughout Bavaria. At the beginning of the month, the Association of Speechwriters even voted it the best speaker in the Bavarian election campaign. "In her speeches full of energy, she shone with clear messages and a tangible personality with clear positioning," praised the association analyst Lisa Hilbich. Thus, the newcomer has even relegated the experienced rhetorician Markus Söder to second place. The rest was done by the Grützen-Liebling Habeck, who showed himself in the Bavarian province again and again on the side of the two top candidates.
The fact is: Even in the Free State, the reputation of the Greens as a prohibition party persists. Both Schulze and Habeck, however, increasingly want to appeal to the bourgeoisie – and shy away from radical ideas, as they often used to be from the ranks of the ecology party. It's over. Pragmatism instead of utopianism, it says now. Housing shortage instead of Veggie Day. The new Greens want to be eligible for the masses. Inner-party wing-fighting between the Realos and the Left is largely silent, if it exists. And in January, even the generation change at the head of the federal party remained unusually harmonious. The party is closed. The CSU can only dream of that at the moment.
The weakness of others
In any case, the Greens benefit greatly from the weakness of other parties. While the CSU with its unpopular and deeply controversial top duo Söder / Seehofer lavierte through a bumpy election campaign, attacked the current slaughter of the Social Democrats from the federal to the state level. Although Bavaria's SPD has sent Natascha Kohnen a dedicated top candidate into the race. But despite comparable strategy she remained largely pale against the Greens in the election campaign. Schulze in particular was just more present, more energetic. In the refugee debate, she openly opposed Seehofer ("The cynicism of Horst Seehofer pisses me off"), while Kohnen appeared more moderate with regard to the coalition peace in Berlin.
Making election campaigns out of the opposition role is just easier. The Greens know that too. If they actually come into government responsibility as CSU junior partners, the popularity bubble could quickly burst. Because in this case, they must inevitably find compromises in the dispute over a third runway at Munich Airport, the unpopular police duty law or the use of pesticides in agriculture. And they would have to come to terms with a boss for whom crucifixes belong in Bavarian classrooms – and not headscarves. Nevertheless, Katharina Schulze is principled. "We do not play bullshit bingo," she told The Financial Times. "We have a clear line." An announcement without a smiley.