New top duo of the Greens: Not an easy legacy

As of: 01/29/2022 9:59 p.m

Ricarda Lang wants to combine climate protection and social issues. Omid Nouripour wants the Greens “to play again on the K question”. The new top duo of the Greens has big ambitions. But they are not inheriting an easy task.

By Christian Feld, ARD Capital Studio

It is usually this moment when beautiful pictures are supposed to be created: Party congress, a new party leadership is elected, bring the bouquets! The crowd of delegates couldn’t keep their seats, roaring applause standing up.

Christian Feld
ARD Capital Studio

There are pictures for the TV news and social media channels that are intended to document the change, the departure. On this Saturday afternoon in the Berlin Velodrom, the corona pandemic is making life doubly difficult for the party conference directors.

Cheering crowds are not allowed in the hall. That sets limits to euphoria. On top of that, the candidate for the federal presidency, Ricarda Lang, has to join in from home because of a corona infection.

Omid Nouripour is there at the Velodrome. He was sighted shortly after 1 p.m. The group of cameramen quickly becomes hectic. You will have ample opportunity to film and photograph the prospective party leader. The only thing that doesn’t exist is the common image of the duo Lang/Nouripour on stage.

Report from the party conference of the Greens

Report from the Green party conference, January 29, 2022

“Government is not a punishment”

Shortly after 4 p.m., Lang appears on the video screen. She delivers her speech from her roommate’s room. It’s a combative speech. One thing quickly becomes clear: Lang doesn’t want to position himself against the government: “Government isn’t punishment. It’s an opportunity.” It goes well with what Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck said in the evening: compromises. Better to have influence yourself than just criticize the government at party conferences.

Lang calls out to the delegates from the digital isolation: “We are willing to work hard – for every cent that flows into basic child security, for every wind turbine that is newly built.” The 28-year-old, daughter of a single mother, wants to make the “combination of climate protection and justice” the basis of green politics.

Getting the party fit for the new members

Nouripour has also set itself the goal of more socio-political credibility. Rising energy prices are a concern, and yet the energy transition must move forward. The man who directly won his constituency in Frankfurt has two opponents. But they remain outsiders.

Nouripour invokes the team spirit and calls out the ambitious goal of wanting to “play with the K question again”. But you can’t do that without looking back: working through the mistakes of the election campaign and getting the party fit for the many new members. As a first step, the party decided that it needed more members than before to submit an application. Last June – in the middle of the election campaign – thousands of amendments had taken over the federal office and board of directors.

Ricarda Lang has her result first. There is no opposing candidate. In the end, she gets around 76 percent of the votes. A good but not outstanding result. The Greens elect the youngest party leader in their history. Nouripour brings in almost 83 percent.

The Corona bonus – a damper for Lang?

In the run-up, it was rumored whether the latest headlines about the Corona bonus could cloud Lang’s results. The facts had long been known: the outgoing green federal board, to which Lang also belongs, had granted a bonus payment of 1,500 euros – including itself. The money has long been repaid, but after reports from private individuals, the Berlin public prosecutor’s office is examining an initial suspicion of infidelity.

Looking back that morning, Federal Treasurer Marc Urbatsch admitted that such a decision would no longer be made “with today’s knowledge”: “Criticism within the party is understandable and justified.”

If you ask around in the party, you also come across reservations about the new chairmen, less about Nouripour and more about Lang. None of this is publicly available. Reason: Everyone knows that the party is of no use if there is no good result.

The role that the two take on will not become amusement taxable at any moment. There are self-confident green cabinet members like the two previous chairmen Baerbock and Habeck. The parliamentary group has become larger and younger. Both Lang and Nouripour belong to it – and are allowed to remain so. The attempt to tighten the separation of office and mandate failed in the night from Friday to Saturday. The motion did not get the necessary majority.

Participation in government – often not easy

In 1998, the Greens were involved in a federal government for the first time. It quickly got uncomfortable. The decision to use NATO in Kosovo caused disappointment among the base and the electorate. The nuclear phase-out did not come as quickly as many Greens expected.

On top of that, there was a rift between Green ministers – especially Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer – and the party leaders at the time. At the party conference in Münster in June 2000, Antje Radcke vehemently complained about the “mantra-like repeated threat of the end of the coalition” when the party dared to question an agreement.

Certainly 1998 and 2022 are not comparable one to one. But Lang and Nouripour will want to avoid that role.

Don’t be afraid of compromises! Governing is good! These are the messages of this party congress. Don’t forget the green profile, the Green Youth warns. Federal spokesman Timon Dzienus expects the board and chairman to “be visible even at traffic lights and sometimes enter into conflicts and sometimes be clear to the coalition partners and fight for the green successes.”

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