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Germany’s Green Velvet Revolution?

While Germany's long-ruling center-right parties continue to offer more of the same, the Greens have recently emerged as a serious contender in the run-up to September's federal elections. Having successfully reformed itself, the party now has a credible claim to be able to reform Germany, too.

BERLIN – In the last 50 years, Germany has experienced three miracles. The one-time sick man of Europe became an Exportweltmeister (export champion). It also overcame its past (Vergangenheitsbewältigung). And it built a political and economic union in which its former enemies have become friends. But now the comfortable world forged by these miracles is crumbling, leaving Germany’s current governing party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), acting like a deer caught in headlights.

Rightly proud of what they have achieved, Germans are reluctant to take lessons from other Europeans, particularly those who seem to have mishandled their own affairs. But in this crucial election year, outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s signature method of muddling through is showing signs of strain. With the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), divided over who should succeed her, the Greens suddenly have a historic opportunity.

While the CDU/CSU has overruled its own voters by tapping CDU leader Armin Laschet as its candidate for chancellor, the Greens have nominated their energetic, 40-year-old co-leader Annalena Baerbock for the job. In a country that is deeply resistant to change, Baerbock promises reform without disruption – a velvet revolution. As the Greens put it in their draft election program: “We will bring some good traditions to bear in new ways, establish some new things, and replace some familiar things. But we will create security in the transition.”

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