By Paul Carrel and Kirsti Knolle
BERLIN (Reuters) -Germany's Greens have put forward their co-leader Annalena Baerbock as their candidate for federal elections in September in the party's first bid to win the chancellery since it was founded 40 years ago.
Baerbock, a former trampolinist, is respected within her party as a serious-minded and capable politician who prefers delving into policy detail to delivering rousing rhetoric.
A Greens chancellor is still only an outside chance after the Sept. 26 federal election, but the party has grown into a formidable force that is just a few points behind Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, who have ruled for 16 years.
The orderly manner in which the Greens decided on and presented their chancellor candidate contrasts with the division in the conservative camp, where the Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party are at odds over who should run.
CDU chairman Armin Laschet and Bavarian premier Markus Soeder remained at loggerheads on Monday over which of them should lead their - increasingly strained - conservative alliance, with no prospect of resolving the matter in sight.
Baerbock, 40, tried to reassure voters who may have reservations about her lack of political experience, presenting herself as a courageous leader with a determination to boost investment in education, digitalisation and green technologies.
"Democracy lives off change. Yes, I was never a chancellor and never a minister," she said. "I stand for renewal. Other stand for the status-quo. I am deeply convinced that this country needs a new start."
Speaking after her fellow party co-leader, Robert Habeck, presented her, Baerbock said she favours a "political culture in which people value each other, take critical voices seriously and do not work against each other but with each other."
Born in 1980 out of the ecologist movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, the Greens govern the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, a former conservative stronghold.
A Forsa poll last week put support for the Greens on 23%, behind 27% for the conservative alliance of Merkel's Christian Democrats and their Bavarian CSU sister party.
To lead a coalition government, the Greens could team up with the SPD, which the Forsa poll showed to have 15% support, and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), at 9%. Another three-way tie-up could be with the SPD and the far-left Linke.
At this stage, the more likely scenario is that the Greens join government as junior partner to Merkel's conservatives.
(Additional reporting by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Raissa Kasolowsky)