The most boring and content-free election campaign ever will come to an end on Sunday when Germans vote for the new Bundestag. There is little doubt that the leader of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), Angela Merkel, will be elected to run Germany for the next four years, with either the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) or the Social Democrats (SPD) as the CDU’s junior coalition partner; both have already played that role in the past.
One of the few remaining interesting questions is over the apparent end of the green hype, two-and-a-half years after the Fukushima nuclear accident, which led the German government to reject nuclear power. However, the sudden decline in popular support for the Green Party only indicates that green ideas are so mainstream now that a political party to represent them is increasingly redundant.
How times change. For months, nearly everyone wondered how the German greens were able to sustain their high levels of support given the fact that preserving the climate and shutting down nuclear-power plants are no longer merely the wet dreams of youthful green activists, but policies dictated from the Federal chancellery. But suddenly, that miraculous green support seems to have crumbled, with opinion polls suggesting that only 10 per cent of voters will back the party, down from more than 25 per cent in the aftermath of Fukushima.
Part of the problem is that the greens haven’t run a particularly smart election campaign. For example, the party has pushed for tax increases and made ‘friendly suggestions’ like not eating meat once a week to save the cows and the climate. Such suggestions didn’t exactly inspire public enthusiasm. Nor did revelations about the morally questionable views on paedophilia voiced by high-ranking green politicians back in the early Eighties. These developments not only mobilised liberal and anti-environmentalist activists to campaign on Facebook against green authoritarianism and hypocrisy, they also prompted newspaper journalists to publish articles about the green party’s sudden agony.
There’s a touch of schadenfreude about watching the halt of the greens’ apparently unstoppable march. There is certainly no substantial criticism of green policies. If there were any serious criticisms of green politics, they would have focused on the conservative government of Angela Merkel, which in recent years has appeared to be greener than any other party in the country. But instead of attacking the Christian Democrats for abandoning their traditional electorate, conservative commentators plunged into extremely superficial ‘anti-68’ rhetoric, trying to distance themselves morally and in terms of lifestyle from the Green Party. In truth, on the basis of their political programmes, the greens would seem to be the natural partner to Merkel’s eco-conservatism.