The watermelons of the German Green Party are looking to plant their sticky seeds in the hitherto stony soil of the East, the former DDR. We’ll see how that turns out.
Many thanks to JLH for translating this essay from Preußische Allgemeine Zeitung:
Lose the Know-It-All-Westerner Image
The elections in Central Germany are expected to be a breakthrough for the Greens in the East of the Republic. But the start was a distinct miss. The party leader himself, Robert Habeck, sent out a video message that dissed potential voters.
The Thuringian Greens put out a video by Habeck, in which he declared: “We are doing everything we can to make Thuringia a free, liberal, democratic state — an ecological state.” What followed, is what is called in “New German” (slang) a S***storm. Many people on the internet recalled that the Free State is presently governed by a red-red-green coalition. And there it was again — the image of the Greens as the party of the Besserwessis.
The Greens are struggling in the East. So there is great deference to the autumn state elections in Brandenburg, Saxony and Thuringia. In the elections in the autumn of 2017, they reached five percent of second votes in Brandenburg, and even less in Thuringia and Saxony. Nationally, at the moment, the Greens are experiencing an unexpected upswing. More than 20% in polls is no longer an exception. They had record successes in the Bavarian and Hesse state elections. In Central Germany, the party is stuck at six to eight percent. And in Mecklenburg-Pomerania, they dropped completely out of the legislature. Now the party leadership has decreed a course correction. They no longer want to be seen in the East as the party that lectures. According to a position paper by the national party leader: Thirty years after the Wall fell, they want to initiate a debate in the middle of Germany about coexistence, “openly, with empathy, respect and mutual interests,” and also about “tales of success, misunderstandings, hopes and aberrations”
In the 1990s, the party in the West “had little interest in the common future in Germany” says the paper. The party intends to correct the mistakes of the past. Party leader Annalena Baerbock recalls the fusion with the civil rightists at the time of the so-called Wende. “The task before us is writing Alliance90 in capital letters in our name again.” But there are also substantial reasons that the Greens are struggling “over there.” Central Germans’ inclination for multicultural utopias is traditionally less developed than is true in the West. And ecological pipe dreams likewise have little appeal in the territory still shaped by four decades of the GDR.
However, in a talk with Der Spiegel, the Federal Whip, Michael Kellner, notes still other reasons. The party had to rebuild completely after the so-called Wende. After the experiences with the SED, party membership was taboo in the progressive spectrum in the East. “So we had very few members from the beginning,” says Kellner. Only a short while ago, there were only ten members in Frankfurt an der Oder.. The party says it has reformed. “But there is doubt whether the East German voices in the Green coalition party are paid sufficient attention. Therefore, 2019 is a chance for us Greens in the coalition to correct our own failures,” says the party conference resolution.
Beyond that programmatically, the intention is to blaze new trails. At the New Year reception in Brandenburg, talk was not about such things as environmental themes such as the controversial lignite strip mining. Instead, there were calls for venture capital for start-ups and more aid for the region’s infrastructure. And while the Grand Coalition (CDU/CSU and SPD) calls for a gradual end of the solidarity tax, the Greens are describing themselves as “East whisperers.” The solidarity tax should become a “contribution for equal living conditions,” as noted in the board’s resolution. Talking with the ZDF (Second National TV), co-chair Annalena Baerbock pointed to the financially strapped communities in the East. Many towns and cities are so deeply in debt that they have no room to maneuver. “We think it is wrong to do away with the solidarity tax when we do not have equal living conditions. Here, she claimed, universal German problems like low wages and children in poverty show up “as if in a magnifying glass.”
Initial successes can be reported. Party whip Kellner reports increases in membership, and that 19% of Central Germans might consider voting Green. In Saxony, there was a nail-biter, and 9% predicted. “This year we have a chance to permanently rise above this 6-7-8% zone,” the national whip said to the German Press Agency. “That would be a great success.”
Of the three state elections in the former GDR, the next is in Bremen for the European Parliament. The eco party has always trended there better than nationally. “We have a good chance of going into the election year with a tail wind,” says Habeck.
|1.||Stemming from the re-uniting of East and West Germany, the uncomplimentary nicknames “Ossi” and “Wessi” (easterner and westerner) describe a mental divide that has evolved, but endured, since 1989. In this case, “Wessi” sarcastically substitutes for the original “Wisser” of the compound “Besserwisser” or Know-It-All.|
|2.||In Bundestag elections: Erststimme = vote for a specific candidate; Zweitstimme = vote for party preference.|
|3.||The “turning point” when the East German government was losing control of the people.|
|4.||Combination of civil action groups and opposition groups.|
|5.||German Democratic Republic = East Germany.|
|6.||Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschland = Socialist Unity Party of Germany. The party organization of the totalitarian state.|
|7.||In eastern Brandenburg, at the Polish border.|
|8.||An “add-on” to the income tax and head tax, put on “temporarily” in 1991, to pay for “extra expenses from the Gulf conflict, for the support of countries in middle, eastern and southern Europe, and for the costs of German unification.”