After starting off this year’s early election campaign with a debate about the dangers of the sometimes problematic short term investment horizons of private equity firms, it was the SPD’s very own loony left’s locusts in the party’s board that forced their chairman, Franz MÃ¼ntefering, to declare that he would not seek re-election at the party conference next month and that he was no longer certain whether he could then serve as the minister in a grand coalition. Certainly, given that surprises seem to have become the rule in German politics by now, things might look different by then.
A partly generational power struggle between MÃ¼ntefering and the left had been going on for a while now. Today’s declaration was caused after Andrea Nahles, a former young-socialist leader and vocal leftist, won the board’s support to become the next SPD secretary general, thereby beating MÃ¼ntefering’s long-time ally Kajo WasserhÃ¶vel.
It is unclear at this point to which extent this, rather surprising, development will affect the formation of the next German government. It was expected that Angela Merkel would be elected Chancellor of a grand coalition on Novembver 22, but it is unlikely that MÃ¼ntefering’s announcement will not affect the coalition talks.
Just when the SPD’s unitiy following their surprising success (well, CDU’s surprisingly dismal performance) at the polls in September indicated that the party could have learnt the lesson that MÃ¼ntefering and the Chancellor probably wanted to teach – that governing is important even if it hurts sometimes – todays events clearly demonstrate the current SPD’s problematic relationship with power, even though the party’s vice chairman Ludwig Stiegler claims, according to Spiegel Online (in German), that the election of Nahles was an accident which happened “because people decided without thinking about the consequences”.
Alas, I’m not so sure that he’s right.