BERLIN – Germany’s Greens elected a new joint leadership duo at a weekend convention, breaking with tradition by selecting two members of the party’s moderate wing.
Green MP Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck, a regional leader from the small northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, will take over from Simone Peter and Cem Özdemir, neither of whom stood for reelection.
Baerbock won 64 percent of the vote, while Habeck received 81 percent. The Greens seek to create gender neutrality in their ranks by a selecting a man and a woman for all senior leadership positions.
Though the election of the new duo was expected, it broke with longstanding Green tradition to have a member of the party’s left-wing alongside an adherent of the so-called “Realos,” the more centrist faction.
The concession by the party’s left-wing reflects the continuing moderation of a party that, though perceived as radical in its early days, has evolved into an establishment political force. The big challenge facing the new leadership duo will be to broaden the party’s appeal beyond its core constituency of well-educated, eco-minded urbanites.
The party posted only modest gains in the fall election to finish with 8.9 percent.
The disappointing result, which makes the Greens the smallest opposition party, was magnified by the failure of talks to form a three-way coalition with Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the liberal Free Democrats.
In the wake of the talks collapse, Özdemir decided not to run again for the party’s leadership. The decision surprised many in Berlin because he is one of Germany’s most popular politicians and at 52 years old, is far from retirement age. For now, Özdemir plans to return to the party’s backbenches.
Habeck, who is deputy premier and environment minister in Schleswig-Holstein, succeeded in building a three-way Green-conservative-liberal coalition in his state last year, an achievement that bolstered his profile in the party.
Habeck, 48, narrowly lost a contest against Özdemir to be the party’s lead male candidate in last fall’s election.
Baerbock, 37, is originally from the western state of Lower Saxony, but represents a district in the eastern region of Brandenburg on the German-Polish border. She led her party’s list in the state, a relatively poor and largely rural region surrounding Berlin, in the fall election.
Baerbock, a former board member of the European Greens, studied international law and most recently served as speaker of the Green parliamentary group on climate issues.
Though well-connected in her party, Baerbock is relatively unknown outside it and has had limited public profile.