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German Green candidate pushes back on copying allegations

July 1, 2021 GMT

BERLIN (AP) — The environmentalist Greens’ candidate to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany’s September election pushed back Thursday against claims that she copied from others in a newly published book, the latest complication to hit her campaign.

The Greens led many polls after Annalena Baerbock, 40, was nominated in April to make the party’s first run for the chancellery. But more recent surveys show Merkel’s center-right Union bloc, under Armin Laschet, taking a lead of seven to 10 points.

The Greens have taken heat from opponents in recent weeks over a string of missteps. Those included a poorly presented plan to raise gasoline prices and talk of ending short-haul flights, which they don’t actually aim to ban, and a Baerbock resume in which details had to be corrected.

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Earlier this week, an Austrian media scientist, Stefan Weber, said that some formulations in Baerbock’s book, titled “Now. How we will renew our country,” which was published on June 21, were strikingly similar to extracts from other publications.

A number of German Cabinet ministers and others have resigned over recent years following allegations of plagiarism in their doctoral theses, but the book in question was not subject to those academic standards and didn’t contain footnotes.

Baerbock’s party called the claims an “attempt at character assassination.”

Asked about that reaction at an event Thursday hosted by women’s magazine Brigitte, Baerbock herself said she had expected to face close scrutiny in the election campaign, “but I have seen from the beginning of my candidacy that falsehoods have been put out there deliberately, by whomever.”

She added that, when she began her candidacy, her view was that “when fake news was out there, you don’t always have to say that it’s fake news, but I’ve seen how it has solidified.”

“So my party made clear, when there was talk of a copyright infringement, that this isn’t the case, and pointed out clearly that it isn’t true,” Baerbock said.

Merkel isn’t seeking a fifth term in the Sept. 26 parliamentary election that will determine who forms the next government.