The gloves are off in Germany’s electoral race. As personal insults are traded and skeletons dragged from their closets, even the German president — a figurehead who normally stays above politics — has urged all parties not to let the campaign descend into ‘mud-slinging’. In a rare political intervention, Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that ‘measure and reason’ were preconditions of a functioning democracy. What had happened to cause the head of state such concern?
The German Green party has long complained that their leader Annalena Baerbock is being subjected to a sexist smear campaign. Her party’s inexperienced spin doctors suddenly had a wave of allegations to deal with — from inaccuracies in their leader’s CV to revelations that she had forgotten to file her income declarations. Baerbock and her allies defended these incidents as harmless oversights and complained that male contenders for the chancellorship were not subjected to such pernickety scrutiny.
Indeed, the campaign has been costly for Baerbock’s personal reputation as well as her party’s standing in the polls, which now show a drop under the 20 per cent mark (from a high of around 26 per cent when Baerbock was first nominated as the Green chancellor candidate). There are fears of a repeat of the Green nightmare at the election eight years ago where they were hoping for 20 per cent and came in at eight.
This drop in popularity has nothing to do with ‘mud-slinging’. Instead, Baerbock is increasingly seen as a political lightweight. Her attempt to bolster her credentials with a newly released book called Now. How We Renew Our Country backfired when it turned out that it contained large sections of plagiarised material.