The Green candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as German chancellor has been accused of plagiarising passages of her new book.
Annalena Baerbock, who briefly led Mrs Merkel in the polls but has fallen behind amid a series of scandals, was said to have copied others’ work in ‘Now: How We Can Renew Our Country’.
Outlining the intellectual basis of the Greens’ policies, the book was meant to add lustre to Ms Baerbock’s candidacy.
But several of its passages were lifted from a variety of sources, according to Stefan Weber, an Austrian self-styled plagiarism hunter who published detailed textual analysis on his blog.
Ms Baerbock and the Greens deny the allegations and claim they are part of an “attempted character assassination”.
Mr Weber identified passages he claimed were copied from sources including Germany’s Spiegel magazine and academic articles by Prof Michael T Klare, a US political scientist. “It’s nothing earth-shattering, it is all easily accessible information. She and her book would have lost nothing if Frau Baerbock had simply marked these passages as quotations,” Mr Weber said.
“The similarities between the passages in the book and the original sources are striking and difficult to dismiss” journalist Jonas Schaible wrote in an analysis for Spiegel that was otherwise largely supportive of Ms Baerbock and the Greens.
Plagiarism is a more potent issue in Germany than in Britain or most other countries.
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Only last month Franziska Giffey resigned as family minister after it emerged she had plagiarised sections of her doctoral thesis.
In a sign of how worried the Greens are, Ms Baerbock has hired one of Germany’s best-known media lawyers, Christian Schertz.
Friendly German media are claiming the allegations are part of a carefully coordinated push by her opponents to discredit Ms Baerbock.
The row comes after Ms Baerbock was forced to admit a number of inaccuracies in her CV, including claims to a bachelor’s degree in political science from Hamburg university — she later completed a master’s at the London School of Economics.
It also comes after she admitted failing to declare her income properly to parliament, including a number of bonuses she was paid as Green party leader.
The series of scandals have rocked the party’s reputation for probity and damaged it in the polls. Unpopular policy announcements have not helped, including a pledge to raise the price of petrol by 16 cents a litre.
The Greens have slipped from first place with 28 per cent support in April to just 20 per cent now, well behind Mrs Merkel’s party which is back in the lead with 30 per cent.