In Merkel Twilight, Germany’s Greens Drive to Brink of Power
(Bloomberg) — When the scruffy Greens marched into German parliament nearly four decades ago in jeans and sneakers, they were sidelined and ridiculed. Today, the party has a legitimate shot at governing Europe’s largest economy.
With Angela Merkel’s coalition hanging by a thread, the possibility of a Green chancellor is a hot topic in Berlin. The party overtook her Christian Democrat-led bloc in polls this month. Robert Habeck, the stubble-cheeked Green co-chairman, would defeat Merkel’s heir apparent in a contest to lead Germany.
That’s raising the question of how Germany would be run by a party that in 1998 proposed tripling gasoline prices and, in 2013, suggested banning meat in canteens every Thursday. Even though the Greens now are a mainstream party for urban professionals, many investors still have jitters.
“The Greens are still in part a prohibition party that wants to use strict regulation to steer the economy,” said Carsten Brzeski, chief economist at ING Germany. “A Green-led government would be difficult for business to handle.”
Worryingly for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, the Green surge mirrors the CDU’s decline. Support for the Greens held at 27% in an Emnid poll published Sunday, while the CDU-led bloc declined 2 percentage points to 25% and Merkel’s Social Democratic coalition partner stayed at a historic low of 12%. Three other major polls in June also put the Green party ahead.
A Green government could have far-reaching implications in transport, energy and other industries and would “want to accelerate the coal phase-out,” said Coralie Laurencin, an energy analyst at researcher IHS Markit. That could mean a growing reliance on gas imports from Russia.The Green surge was fueled by the party’s transformation from a group of eco-fanatics into a people’s party palatable to more Germans. They’re also benefiting from disillusionment with the governing parties dragging their feet on issues from gender and income inequality to climate.