Morgen ist die Frage” (Tomorrow is the Question) reads the banner outside Berlin’s most famous nightclub, Berghain. There’s no dancing here right now, due to Covid restrictions, but in the meantime this legendary club has become a gallery, and the current exhibition reflects an issue that’s uniting German voters, left and right. Berl-Berl is a mesmeric show by video artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen, filmed in the Spreewald, a wetland wilderness an hour’s drive from Berlin. On one level it’s a hypnotic treat, a feast for the ears and eyes, but like all the best artworks it also works on a deeper level. Berl-Berl is a cri de coeur for the environment, and when Germans go to the polls tomorrow, this burning issue will be centre stage.
Sunday’s election is a watershed in German history. Angela Merkel is stepping down, after 16 years as chancellor, and the future of Germany (and Europe) is up for grabs. For most of her time in office, Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) governed in a grand coalition with the soft-left SPD (Germany’s electoral system means it’s virtually impossible for one party to win an absolute majority). Merkel’s centrist leadership pulled both parties towards the middle ground, and although Merkel herself remained popular, the popularity of both parties in her coalition slumped. Yet rather than migrating to Germany’s hard left or far right parties (Die Linke or AfD) many disenchanted moderates have flocked to Die Grünen (the Greens), a party that draws support from both left and right.
Currently, Merkel’s CDU, the SPD and Die Grünen are all polling around 20 per cent, which points to another coalition, but this time the Greens are the kingmakers – and for anyone who cares about climate change, the consequences could be huge. Europe’s most populous and powerful country looks set to elect a government with ecology at the centre of its strategy. If Germany sets tougher environmental standards the European Union will surely follow, and any third country which wants to do business with the EU (including Britain) will have to adhere to these new regulations. Maybe this election could be a tipping point, the beginning of a greener world?
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