un the turn of the year, the Hessian SPD chairwoman Nancy Faeser became the most sought-after politician in Germany. But she couldn’t benefit from it. Because the violence against police officers that erupted on New Year’s Eve and the excesses of a failed integration policy regularly embarrass the politicians who are responsible for such issues.
On the other hand, the office of Federal Minister of the Interior and the associated presence in the national media ensure that the 52-year-old lawyer is well known. She throws him on the scales when she challenges Prime Minister Boris Rhein (CDU) in the Hessian state elections in autumn. There is no longer any reasonable doubt that it will do so.
The head of government is not in the comfortable position enjoyed by many of his colleagues in other countries when they are campaigning against competitors who hardly anyone knows, because the opposition on the national political stage is rarely noticed finds. But Deputy Prime Minister Tarek Al-Wazir (The Greens) originally wanted a different, much more favorable constellation. He had hoped that former Prime Minister Volker Bouffier would run again, in order to present himself as his much younger green edition.
Declare war on right-wing extremism in Hesse
Now not only the Union has a new candidate. The Social Democrats offer a woman with whom they radiate the modernity that the Greens also like to claim for themselves. Its young Minister of Science, Angela Dorn, is likely to run for first place on the state list according to the party statutes. But the top candidate for government office will be Al-Wazir, a man who has already spent more than half his life as a career politician.
On February 3, the Hessian SPD will officially send its top woman into the race at a closed conference in Friedewald in East Hesse. The fact that the road there has been bumpy since Faeser’s appointment as Federal Minister of the Interior 13 months ago is partly due to the constellation. The social democrat had to leave the question of her candidacy in Hesse open for as long as possible so as not to give the impression in Berlin that she was only half-hearted in her government office and saw it only as a springboard for the state chancellery.
Federal Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, who also comes from the Hessian SPD state association, encouraged this view by thinking aloud about Faeser’s move to Wiesbaden in May of last year without any reason. But voters are forgetful. And the election campaign has already begun.
The two investigative committees of the state parliament are part of the strategy. One deals with mistakes by the authorities that preceded the murder of the Kassel district president Walter Lübcke (CDU) in June 2019. The other deals with the circumstances of the racist attack in Hanau in February 2020.
The overzealousness with which some Social Democrats go about their work can be explained by the fact that the fight against right-wing extremism is one of the Interior Minister’s major priorities. Campaigners and PR agencies love it when the party spreads the same message at different levels at the same time.
Also occupy the state election campaign with federal political issues
After the failed coup plans of the “Reichsbürger” Faeser spoke of an “abyss of terrorist threat” in December last year. The fact that she made a direct connection to the murder of Lübcke is an indication of the argumentative line that will play a role in the state election campaign. Anyone who considers the threat from the right in Hesse to be particularly high can see an argument in favor of Faeser. At least that’s what the SPD’s election strategists think.
In doing so, they also rely on the general wealth of experience that state election campaigns are usually shaped by federal political issues. Roland Koch (CDU) became Prime Minister after his party collected signatures in 1999 against the reform of German citizenship law by the then red-green federal government.
The Federal Minister of the Interior will also draw attention to national issues. These include migration and the relevant legislation on citizenship law, for which Faeser is responsible. In view of the acute overload in many municipalities, this point could result in criticism from the interior minister.
In addition, their personal plans are discussed. For example, the question arises as to whether she will give up the office of Federal Minister of the Interior if she takes over the top candidacy in Hesse. If not, the competition will accuse her of not being able to reconcile running such an important ministry in Berlin with an election campaign in Hesse. And she will ask how Faeser will react if she loses the battle for the state chancellery. In this case, will she remain Federal Minister of the Interior or will she also take over the leadership of the parliamentary group in addition to the office of party chairman? The social democrat will give the first answers at the beginning of February.
Previously published: “Young Opposition” – The Greens (December 29); “Unsuccessful through the energy crisis” – Die Linke (December 30); “AfD wants Faeser as SPD top candidate” (December 31); “FDP back on familiar ground” (January 3); “Rhine’s discreet sign to the SPD” – CDU (January 4)