The former Schleswig-Holstein Prime Minister Heide Simonis is dead. According to the SPD state chairman Serpil Midyatli, the SPD politician died on Wednesday morning a few days after her 80th birthday, which she celebrated on July 4th. Heide Simonis was very seriously ill with Parkinson’s and was last cared for at home in Kiel.
On May 19, 1993, she became the first female Prime Minister of a German federal state. In 1993 she replaced Björn Engholm (SPD), who had failed due to the long-term effects of a scandal in 1987 involving the then Prime Minister Uwe Barschel (CDU). Initially, she led a one-party SPD government, then from 1996 to 2005 a coalition with the Greens. Simonis was elected to the Bundestag in 1976. In 1988 she became finance minister in Kiel.
Because of her quick wit, Simonis was often a guest on talk shows. She did not succeed in getting into federal politics. The end of her political career caused a nationwide stir. On March 17, 2005, she failed to be re-elected to the state parliament because an unknown dissenter from her own ranks refused to vote in four secret rounds of the prime ministerial election. After a very close state election, Simonis wanted to continue governing with a red-green minority government – supported by the South Schleswig Voters’ Association (SSW), the party of the Danish minority.
After the failure of this controversial project, the then CDU state chairman Peter Harry Carstensen became prime minister at the head of a grand coalition with the SPD. Simonis had refused such a government alliance. In October 2005 she took over the honorary chair of the children’s aid organization Unicef Germany. In the face of a crisis of confidence in the organization, she resigned in early 2008.
In 2006, she was partially mocked for dancing on the RTL show “Let’s Dance”. Simonis wrote several books. In 2014, the then Prime Minister Torsten Albig (SPD) awarded Simonis honorary citizenship. Five years ago, she was only able to celebrate her 75th birthday with a small group in her apartment in Kiel. Ralf Stegner, then SPD federal vice president, presented her with the Willy Brandt Medal, the party’s highest award.