Personnel debate in the SPD: It is these key figures that count

To analyse

Status: 01.11.2021 5:12 p.m.

It is not unlikely that the SPD dual leadership will step down and another duo will take over the helm: campaign director Klingbeil and front woman Schwesig. A hard-won truce is at stake.

By Moritz Rödle, ARD capital studio

“Mission Accomplished” – Mission accomplished: This is how Norbert Walter-Borjans justified his announcement last Friday that he would not run again as SPD party chairman. No surprise so far. The fact that NoWaBo, as he is called in the party, would not seek a second term, was a poorly kept secret in political Berlin.

Moritz Rödle
ARD capital studio

At the weekend, however, the demand from parliamentary group leader Rolf Mützenich that the second party leader, Saskia Esken, also had to decide whether to remain at the top of the party or how often speculated to enter the cabinet, caused more attention. Is the hard-won truce in the SPD now collapsing?

Guardian of left interests

Time and again, two people are named who could lead the SPD into the future. Lars Klingbeil and Manuela Schwesig. Both won elections: Klingbeil as head of the SPD campaign, the Bundestag election and Schwesig, as the front woman, the state election in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

They have long been considered the future of the party. Especially about Klingbeil, it is said by many from the SPD that he has earned a promotion. But there are concerns that a solution without Esken at the top of the party could throw the finely balanced power structure in the SPD out of joint.

Because Esken and Walter-Borjans are considered key figures without whom the successful path of the SPD in the past twelve months would have been inconceivable. Esken in particular is still considered by many – especially young leftists in the party – to be the guardian of left interests and the protective power against the takeover of the party by the pragmatists.

More influence in the cabinet?

But there are also voices who say that Esken in the cabinet can do this job much better. At the latest with the possible election of Olaf Scholz as Chancellor, the center of power is shifting from the SPD party headquarters to the Chancellery. Esken would then have more influence in the cabinet.

The left camp is also not determined on this issue. The young Munich MP Sebastian Roloff is co-head of the DL21 forum – an association of left-wing members in the SPD. To the ARD capital studio said Roloff, Esken is doing a great job and can do both: remain party chairman or take over a ministry.

And the possible successor Schwesig also praised Roloff: “Schwesig is very popular in the SPD, can be connected to everyone and the formation of a red-red government in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is also a statement.”

Schwesig evades

A duo Klingbeil / Schwesig is therefore not excluded. The protagonists themselves keep a low profile. In an interview on the show Report from Berlin Schwesig replied evasively when asked whether she could rule out the candidacy for party chairmanship. You do not want to participate in speculation about personnel now.

The model is also being discussed in the SPD as a trio. In these considerations, Kevin Kühnert would take on the office of Secretary General. With the left Mützenich at the head of the parliamentary group, the balance of power between the left and the pragmatic camp could also be balanced. Whether it turns out that way in the end is not just up to those involved.

Too many variables are still open. Which ministries does the SPD get? Does one fit into Esken’s profile? Would Klingbeil prefer to become a minister after all? It only seems relatively certain: Scholz will not reach for the SPD leadership. He ruled that out last weekend.

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