German election: Greens pick Annalena Baerbock as their candidate to replace Merkel

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By Euronews  with AP
The leaders of Germany's Green party Annalena Baerbock, right, and Robert Habeck attend a press conference in Berlin, Germany on March 15, 2021.
The leaders of Germany's Green party Annalena Baerbock, right, and Robert Habeck attend a press conference in Berlin, Germany on March 15, 2021.   -  Copyright  Tobias Schwarz/Pool via AP

Germany's green party has chosen co-leader Annalena Baerbock as its first-ever candidate for the chancellery in September's election.

Baerbock, 40, has been a lawmaker in the national parliament since 2013 but has no government experience. She has been sharing the leadership of the party with Robert Habeck, 51, since 2018.

They have presided over a rise in poll ratings. The party currently polls at 20-22 per cent, more than twice the 8.9 per cent it won in the 2017 election and second only to the ruling centre-right CDU/CSU alliance.

It means the Greens — in opposition nationally but in 11 of the country's 16 state governments — could hold the key to forming the next government.

“Democracy lives on change,” Baerbock said. "Yes, I have never been chancellor or a minister. I stand for renewal, others stand for the status quo.”

She said she wants "a Germany at the heart of Europe, a country in which climate protection creates the future foundation for prosperity, freedom and security".

"Today begins a new chapter for our party. And if we do it well, for our country as well. We have a clear idea of a chancellorship for Germany," she continued.

Baerbock has two young daughters and is based in eastern Brandenburg state, a rural region where the Greens initially struggled to make inroads but now are part of the local government.

She studied political science and international law in Hamburg and London and was a successful trampolinist in her youth.

Her candidacy still needs to be approved during the party congress in June.

The party's programme, unveiled last month, includes an acceleration of the country's exit from coal-fired power, a rise in carbon prices and a significant boost in infrastructure spending. They are pro-European Union and take a tough line toward Russia, calling for an end to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

She has called for a "joint, strong European position" on Russia and China, arguing: “With authoritarian forces in particular, we have to have a clearly guided foreign policy ... in dialogue, and tough at the same time."

"Now is the time for politics to rise above itself, for us to shape the future. That's my offer. That's our offer. That's what we're running for," Baerbock said.

The September 26 parliamentary election is unpredictable, in part because Angela Merkel, 66, isn't seeking re-election.

Her Union bloc has so far failed to agree on a candidate with Armin Laschet, the leader of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and Markus Soeder, the head of its smaller Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), both vying for the official ticket.

Laschet and Soeder are the state governors of North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria respectively. Soeder has much better poll ratings, but Laschet is the recently elected leader of by far the bigger of the sister parties.

The Social Democrats, who provided three of Germany's eight post-World War II chancellors but have long been stuck in a poll slump, nominated Finance Minister Olaf Scholz as their candidate for chancellor months ago.