Germany's Election Pre-Game Social Democrats to Announce Campaign 'Team Steinmeier'

Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other leaders of Germany's Social Democratic Party are meeting to discuss election strategy. Steinmeier, the party's pick for chancellor, hopes to make headlines with his campaign team choices on Thursday.


The upper ranks of the leadership of Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) are gathering in Potsdam near Berlin on Wednesday for a two-day meeting in preparation for the campaign season leading up to elections on Sept. 27. The SPD's chancellor candidate, Frank-Walter Steinmeier -- who is also the country's vice-chancellor and foreign minister -- will present the party's campaign strategy on Wednesday. On Thursday, he will officially introduce his campaign team.

German Foreign Minister and the Social Democratic Party's candidate for chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier (in gray) sits with other prominent members of the party, including Andrea Nahles, the SPD's deputy chairwoman (front, in red) in an archive photo from April.
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German Foreign Minister and the Social Democratic Party's candidate for chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier (in gray) sits with other prominent members of the party, including Andrea Nahles, the SPD's deputy chairwoman (front, in red) in an archive photo from April.

"Team Steinmeier" will include Andrea Nahles, the SPD's deputy chairwoman, who will be in charge of issues related to education and integration, according to information SPIEGEL ONLINE has obtained from SPD sources. The 39-year-old leader of the party's left-wing base is meant to serve as a counterweight to Annette Schavan, Germany's education minister, who is a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party.

Nahles has been repeatedly mentioned as a possible member of the team over the last few weeks, but it was unclear which areas she could be put in charge of. Her actual area of specialty is labor market policies, but this field will be covered by German Labor Minister Olaf Scholz, who will rise in the ranks like all of the other SPD members on Steinmeier's team who currently hold cabinet positions. Still, by being in charge of education and integration policies, Nahles' position will also be of equal importance should the SPD win.

Nahles won't be the only woman on Steinmeier's team. According to information obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE, Christina Rau might be a surprise candidate for overseeing cultural policies. The 52-year-old Rau, the widow of former German President Johannes Rau (1999-2004), has reportedly agreed to join the team after a long period of indecisiveness.

Manuela Schwesig, the 35-year-old social minister for the northern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, will be the SPD's choice for heading family policy. Thomas Oppermann, the chairman of the German parliament's Intelligence Oversight Committee, is being considered for the post of interior minister, according to the German news agency DPA. Ulrike Merten, who currently chairs the parliament's Defense Committee, will most likely be the SPD's choice to steer the campaign on military issues.

It is still unclear whether German Health Minister Ulla Schmidt will ultimately be part of the team following a recent scandal regarding her private use of a state-owned armored limousine while on holiday in Spain, which was subsequently stolen. For now, Schmidt plans to submit all records on her use of the vehicle to the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, and the Federal Audit Court. If the two bodies determine that she used the vehicle appropriately and clear her of wrongdoing, Schmidt could still be added to the team.

A spokeswoman from her ministry has said that Schmidt will address her critics on Wednesday after returning from Spain. The spokeswoman also announced that the stolen vehicle -- a €100,000 ($141,000) S-Class Mercedes sedan -- has been recovered near the city of Alicante, where Schmidt was vacationing, possibly because of all the public attention it had drawn in recent days. She added that Schmidt's chauffeur had apparently been drugged with knockout gas before the car's keys were stolen from him.

According to recent polls, the SPD commands only 24 percent of the vote, down from the 34.2 percent it won in the 2005 elections before entering into a grand coalition with the CDU. Many predict that the CDU will lead in the polls and form a new coalition with the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) following the Sept. 27 elections. Media commentators attribute the SPD's lagging in the polls to its inability to communicate a coherent message to voters.

Reported by Veit Medick and Markus Feldenkirchen.

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