German Greens finalize election pitch amid sag in polls

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s environmentalist Greens are preparing to put the finishing touches on their election pitch and 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, and a state election last weekend brought a big conservative win and a disappointing Green showing.

The party still has plenty of reasons to fight ahead of Germany’s Sept. 26 national election. 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.

Still, a prominent lawmaker and former party leader cautioned members against forcing radical changes to the Greens’ draft election platform during a three-day online congress that opened Friday. The platform foresees speeding up Germany’s exit from coal-fired power, raising carbon prices and massively increasing infrastructure spending.

Some members want more. For example, the party has pledged to introduce a 130 kph (81 mph) speed limit on Germany’s autobahn highways, many stretches of which lack any limits. Some are calling instead for it to go further and make the top speed 100 kph (62 mph).

Ex-leader Cem Ozdemir told the Rheinische Post newspaper that the more moderate promise is what most Germans want.

The Greens have taken heat from opponents lately over a poorly presented plan to raise gasoline prices and talk of ending short-haul flights — which they don’t actually aim to ban — and after details in 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.

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