Nancy Faeser: Double role with risk


Status: 01/31/2023 11:29 am

Campaigning top candidate in Hesse and minister in Berlin – is that possible at the same time? At least until the autumn elections, Nancy Faeser apparently wants to take on this dual role – with all the risks and side effects.

When the Hessian SPD chairwoman Nancy Faeser stands on stage surrounded by Malu Dreyer and Anke Rehlinger on Friday, the message is clear: SPD women can govern. Two of them have already proven it, Malu Dreyer in Rhineland-Palatinate and Anke Rehlinger in Saarland, the third, Nancy Faeser, wants to do the same in Hesse.

At the so-called Hesse Summit in Friedewald in northern Hesse, a traditional meeting of Hessian SPD MPs and party officials, the Federal Minister of the Interior is to be chosen as the top candidate for the state elections in autumn.

Bet she does?

Since taking office in the Federal Cabinet at the end of 2021, the question has repeatedly arisen as to whether she would actually prefer to become Prime Minister in Hesse. The answer has become increasingly clear in recent weeks. “I bet that Nancy Faeser will be the SPD’s top candidate in Hesse,” a leading member of the Greens in the Hessian state parliament recently scoffed. He just can’t find anyone to bet against him anymore.

Without Faeser, the Hesse SPD would be blank

The Hesse SPD would also be ill-advised if they sent someone other than Faeser into the running for the state chancellery in Wiesbaden. Especially since she probably wouldn’t have anyone and would be pretty bare.

Nobody in the Hessian SPD is anywhere near as well known as Faeser. Appearances on the national and international stage, with a “One Love Bandage” at the soccer World Cup in Qatar, raids against “Reich citizens”, stricter gun laws, the question of more effective deportations of rejected asylum seekers: As Federal Minister of the Interior, she is in the news almost every day.

Dangers for the election campaign

However, the dual role also harbors dangers for her election campaign. An attack, increasing numbers of refugees or a major cyber attack could at any time ensure that the political debate suddenly revolved around completely different topics than the Hessian state politics. She has to accept the risk when she runs an election campaign as the acting interior minister.

And she obviously accepts it. Nevertheless, she wants to conduct the election campaign without giving up her position as Federal Minister of the Interior, confidants from Hessian state politics confirm. From the SPD’s point of view, the advantages outweigh the risks, even if the opposition is already using the issue to attack them.

“A state election campaign as a top candidate demands the whole person, just like the office of Federal Minister of the Interior – especially in these times,” said Konstantin von Notz, Vice President of the Greens in the Bundestag, the “Handelsblatt”. And FDP party leader Wolfgang Kubicki warned in the Funke newspapers that the interior ministry was “not a suitable campaign platform in these serious times.”

Hiking with the Greens

But there is a lot to be said for Faeser from the point of view of the Hessian SPD: As a trained commercial lawyer, she also has an impact beyond the classic SPD milieu, she is well networked in the state from her time as opposition leader in the Wiesbaden state parliament and she has developed good relationships with potential coalition partners. Before moving to Berlin, the social democrat had been active in Hessian local and state politics since 1996 and sat in the state parliament for 18 years.

With the Green parliamentary group leader, Mathias Wagner, she went demonstratively hiking, even among FDP and CDU MPs she is considered someone with whom you can still talk well and laugh with after a contentious day in the plenary session. Under her leadership, the SPD and the FDP launched a series of joint parliamentary initiatives and inflicted a heavy defeat on the black-green state government. At the request of both parties, the Hessian State Court of Justice declared the Corona special fund to be unconstitutional.

This ability to connect to other parties can be crucial after the Hessian state elections when it comes to forging a coalition. The incumbent Prime Minister Boris Rhein will stand for the CDU, and Economics Minister Tarek Al-Wazir, who is well known for a state politician, will stand for the Greens.

The election result could be so close that several coalitions would be conceivable. Whoever can form a majority moves into the state chancellery – not necessarily the person whose party comes first.

The Ypsilanti trauma

Hesse has experience with this: although the CDU has been the strongest party for the most part since the 1970s, the SPD has nevertheless led a number of coalitions with the FDP and the Greens. In 2008, party left Andrea Ypsilanti attempted to form a government with Left Party support, despite previously promising not to do just that. This breach of word caused the Hessian SPD to collapse, and it was unable to recover from it in three state elections. The party now dreams of turning Hesse back into a red state under the leadership of Faeser.

She would then also be the first woman to lead the state. The official starting signal for this is to be given in Friedewald, with the help of the two prime ministers from Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate.

Röttgen model or Kanther model?

But if it wasn’t enough in the end and the Hessian SPD only became a junior partner at the cabinet table or even ended up in the opposition again – what would Faeser do then? Does she then want to remain Federal Minister of the Interior and leave state politics to her comrades again? According to reports, she does not intend to lead the opposition in Hesse, as she has done before.

There is also a danger here: the voters took offense at the then CDU top candidate in North Rhine-Westphalia, Norbert Röttgen. First he lost the state election in 2012 – and then his place at Angela Merkel’s cabinet table. In the SPD, they prefer to refer to Manfred Kanther, who campaigned for the CDU as federal interior minister in Hesse in 1995, made it the strongest party, but still did not become prime minister because there was a red-green majority. After that, he remained Minister of the Interior for many years.

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