Once upon a time you could always tell a Social Democrat apart because he or she would have a faultless grip on procedure. German and Scandinavian Social Democrats have always known how to run a meeting or conduct an internal election.
Things have changed.
Last year Franz Müntefering resigned as chairman of the SPD after a botched attempt to elect an official in the party’s central office. Yesterday the Hamburg branch of the SPD cancelled the election of a lead candidate for the next Bürgerschaft shortly after the deadline for delivery of votes. The reason according to the local chairman – who was also one of the candidates for the candidacy – was that a substantial number of votes had gone awol.
The election in itself is interesting. The Hamburg branch appears to be engaged in a bloody internal conflict between chairman Mattias Petersen, a maverick with populist leanings, and groups supporting Dorothee Stapelfeld, a more traditional Social Democrat who is not troubled by unnecessary charisma.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some in the Hamburg SPD dream of putting Helmut Schmidt in a time-machine in order to have a younger edition of the eloquent and agressive Schmidt face Ole von Beust of the CDU. Alternatively, the Germans could look to Denmark to see how an internal election can be carried out.