The man is not fit to be a citizen’s scarecrow. No dungarees, no Jesus slippers. Winfried Kretschmann does not fit the cliche of the alternative ecologist. The teacher of biology, chemistry and ethics almost always appears in public settings in a suit with smart leather shoes, wearing a light-colored shirt and, how could it be otherwise, usually a green tie. The 62-year-old with the distinctive crew-cut is also structurally conservative in many other ways – and therefore did not always have an easy time in his own party for many years. Now Kretschmann may be the first Green to hold the office of prime minister in Baden-Wurttemberg after a state election in Germany.
And this in the state, which like the second southern state of Bavaria has been governed by the CDU/CSU for decades without interruption. Kretschmann is considered level-headed and thoughtful, he is not a man of big gestures and speeches. The co-founder of the Green Party in Baden-Wurttemberg rather tries to convince in a sober, factual and argumentative way. What some see as Kretschmann’s adherence to political principle, others see as stubbornness. Even his political opponents attest to his high credibility and personal integrity.
Kretschmann has also been involved in the Catholic Church in many ways and for years: in the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) and in the Diocesan Council of the Archdiocese of Freiburg, as well as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Academy of the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart and in the Association of Friends of the Archabbey of St. Martin in Beuron. And in Laiz, his small home village on the Danube near Sigmaringen, the married father of three adult children is still active in the church choir.
Politically, Kretschmann stands for the core Green ies, for an ecological modernization of industrial society and an education policy in which origins must not be allowed to determine career opportunities. And Kretschmann wants a society in which citizens can play an active role in shaping and deciding the future of the country.
But according to initial findings, two other ies were decisive for the Greens’ electoral success: Stuttgart 21 and, above all, the shock after the Fukushima disaster. The months of citizen protests against the controversial rail project, which Prime Minister Stefan Mappus (CDU), who had been voted out of office, described as the work of "professional demonstrators", were also an ideal political stage for Kretschmann and the Greens because of the lurching course of the SPD. And when it comes to nuclear energy, Kretschmann no longer had to convince anyone that there are residual risks. Many, however, did not believe his opponent Mappus in the nuclear change of course.
Kretschmann grew up in Spaichingen in the district of Tuttlingen, "in a liberal, Catholic home where people thought and argued freely and at the same time lived the full richness of the church year," as he says about himself. In the years around 1968, Kretschmann, a student, became involved in radical left-wing communist groups. A phase he quickly saw as a "political error" and which, in his own estimation, has made him "immune to fundamentalisms of all kinds" to this day.
In 1980, Kretschmann joined five other members of parliament in Stuttgart for the first time as a Green in the state parliament of a territorial state. He was one of those in his party for whom, like Christa Nickels, Christian faith is not an antithesis but an important root for Green political action. In 1986, Joschka Fischer, who later became Foreign Minister, brought him to Hesse to serve in the first Green Ministry for the Environment. After the breakup of the Red-Green coalition there, Kretschmann worked as a teacher for a few years before returning to the Stuttgart state parliament and being elected parliamentary group leader in 2002.
Since then, he has wanted to limit his own "cross-headedness" and instead "integrate, unite and say something smart about everything". This is more than ever expected of him as prime minister.