German Greens finalize election pitch amid sag in polls

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s environmentalist Greens are putting the finishing touches on their election pitch and preparing to formally endorse Annalena Baerbock as their candidate for chancellor, amid a slip in the party’s poll ratings fueled in large part by its own mistakes.

The Greens led many polls after Baerbock, 40, was nominated in April to make the party’s first run for Germany’s top public office. But more recent surveys show outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Union bloc overtaking the Greens. A state election last weekend brought a big conservative win and a disappointing Green showing.

The party’s prospects of at least a share in power after Germany’s Sept. 26 national election remain promising. The Greens are still polling 20% or more — more than twice the 8.9% of the vote the party received in Germany’s last election, in 2017. With Merkel stepping down after 16 years in power, no candidate has the advantage of incumbency.

A three-day online congress that opened Friday is considering a draft election platform that foresees speeding up Germany’s exit from coal-fired power, raising carbon prices and massively increasing infrastructure spending.

Ahead of the meeting, prominent pragmatists cautioned activists against forcing through more radical demands that would turn voters off. The party leadership got its way on climate issues, with delegates voting down calls for an even steeper and faster increase in carbon pricing.

They also backed a pledge to introduce a 130 kph (81 mph) speed limit on Germany’s autobahn highways, many stretches of which lack any limits. Some members had wanted tougher restrictions, including on non-autobahn roads.

The Greens have taken heat from opponents lately over a string of missteps. Those include a poorly presented plan to raise gasoline prices and talk of ending short-haul flights — which they don’t actually aim to ban — and a Baerbock resume had to be corrected.

“I obviously made a mistake there,” Baerbock told ARD television on Thursday, saying that her effort to produce a “very compressed presentation” of her career had led to misunderstandings. “And I am very, very sorry about that.”

Robert Habeck, who co-leads the party along with Baerbock, acknowledged as the congress opened on Friday that “we have made mistakes, and, in the harsh light of the early stage of an election campaign, little mistakes become big and mistakes become scandals.”

“We were annoyed about it, we have analyzed it and we will remedy the mistakes,” Habeck said.