In the Bavarian capital Munich the traditional beer fueled Oktoberfest is in full swing.And for Katharina Schulze there could soon be more to celebrate.The 33 year old co-leader of the Bavarian Green Party claims there is something in the air.She’s polling ahead of the center-left Social Democrats and the far-right Alternative for Germany party.
“What is really annoying a lot of people today is that we are always talking about hatred, hate speech, escalation.We are not focusing on that.Of course there are challenges we have to tackle courageously,but we need solutions and clever ideas, not always this constant complaining about how terrible everything is.”
it’s a message that appears to be resonating.The Green Party is overtaking the Social Democrats in several German cities.Its leaders champion a radically different agenda:open borders, deeper European integration and say Germany should be proud of taking in over a million refugees.
“In times when there’s a lot of fear of a rising far right and Germany that’s closing down, a narrative that is now doing quite well for them.”
The rise of the far right has received widespread media coverage and polls have the anti-immigrant AfD party in third place.But the Greens believe they have the momentum.
“Of course news always are driven by what is more shocking.And that’s why I think it’s not as much covered as of course the rise of the AfD.”
The Greens have learned from their rivals’ success,adopting some of the tactics that have driven far right support and playing up their candidates’ local ties.
“To also strike some of the tones that the AFD has set,for example this ‘Heimat’ narrative for example trying to have a kind of Green perspective on what your homeland can represent for you terms of ecology.”
As part of that narrative, the Greens have criticized some big construction projects as attacks on Bavaria’s environment.But will this emphasis on ecology lead to the rise of green populism in Europe?
“There are some aspects that play into the success of the Green Party that you can find in many European countries.There’s the weakness of the two main political parties on the center-left and center-right in Germany,and there is the increasing polarization in a political debate that drives people both to the extreme ‘open’ and extreme ‘closing’ parties.”
The Green challenge is to take their momentum deeper into Germany and Europe, many analysts remain skeptical.But the fragmentation of European politics is taking on a new color.
Henry Ridgwell for VOA News London.