Things seem to move fast in Germany. Franz Müntefering had barely announced his resignation as party chairman before the two main candidates to succed him, Kurt Beck (PM of Rheinland-Pfalz) and Matthias Platzeck (PM of Brandenburg), announced that Platzeck was their candidate for the post.
Platzeck’s biography is a quite fascinating – especially when you compare it to Angela Merkel’s:
1. He is an East German (so is Merkel)
2. He is born in 1953 (Merkel 1954), which makes him 10 years younger than the “old” guard in the SDP, CDU and CSU.
3. He is the son of a Doctor and the grandson of a vicar (Merkel is the daughter of a vicar)
4. He has a university degree in science (so has Merkel)
5. He is not a “natural” Social Democrat. He first joined Bündnis ’90 when it was an East German civil rights party, but left in 1993 when the party merged formally with the West German Green Party (Merkel started her career in Demokratischer Aufbruch before joining the CDU during 1990 and she is often seen as a Liberal-Conservative rather than a Christian Democrat)
There are of cause some differences as well:
6. Platzeck has his political roots in politics on the state level, Merkel on the Federal level.
7. Platzeck has been the head of a grand coalition (in Brandenburg), Markel hasn’t (yet).
8. Platzeck’s rise within the Brandenburg SPD since 1995 has been relatively uncontroversial. Unlike Merkel he hasn’t overthrown any of the previous leaders on his way up, but was in fact Manfred Stolpe’s chosen successor as chairman of the Brandenburg SPD and PM of Brandenburg.
And finally one really funny thing to note:
9. Platzeck rose to national stardom during the floodings of 1997 when he was Minister for the Environment in Brandenburg. I’ll save you the quiz element and just note that a certain Helmut Schmidt from a place called Hamburg performed the same feat following the floodings of 1963.
What else? According to the media there are some pretty heated discussions within and around the SPD about Monday’s vote. It is interesting to note that the left wing in the party doesn’t get all of the blame.
A comment in Die Zeit (German weekly published by the very Schmidt mentioned above) blames Müntefering and his generation for running the party in an “apres nous, la déluge”-fashion – too much form and posing and too little political content.
On the other hand, Andrea Nahles whose run for the post as General Secretary of the party triggered this week’s events now declare that everything was a terrible misunderstanding and that her run wasn’t intended to weaken the party chairman. Nahles and her supporters are of cause criticised for being too naïve about party politics.
Wednesday’s collateral damage was Heidemarie Wiczorek-Zeul (my apologies if I have spelled that name wrong…), one of the vice-chairmen of the party and also one of the prominent leftwingers within the SPD. She will not be standing for reelection in two weeks’ time, but Nahles is mentioned as a possible successor.
The government? Well, it seems that a) Franz Müntefering still wants to join the cabinet as Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Labour, b) Michel Glos will replace Edmund Stoiber as Minister of Trade and Commerce (Merkel probably won’t shed too many tears over that change in the line-up), c) SPD and CDU have agreed on increasing the VAT from 16 to 18%. (What? Something related to policy? Well, have you ever!)