Sonntag, 7. September 2008

The King is Dead. Long Live the King

Today Kurt Beck, chairman of the German Social Democrats, resigned the chairmanship. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the foreign minister, and Fanz Müntefering ("Münte"), the old chairman will return to his post and lead the Social Democrats into the next general election in 2009. Its certainly good news for the party and Germany at all. One final note on Beck: even as he left he did not take the opportunity to make a strong statement. His final note has been as vague as his entire term as chairman. At literally no point did he lead his party, he always followed it and apparently he had absolute no idea as to where to lead this nation. Although the party could be back on track now, there are a couple of consequences that the SPD needs to tackle.

First of all, the appointment of foreign minister Steinmeier to the party's candidate for federal chancellor and Franz Müntefering's prospective election as party chair have implications for the election of the President of Germany later this year. With Kurt Beck as party chairman most believed that the party would take the votes of the radical left wing party Die Linke to elect the SPD's candidate Gesine Schwan, even though most Germans wouldn't approve of that and even though it would have alsmost certainly hurt the party with the general election next year. This now seems to be an unlikely scenario. The SPD now needs to make a decision on the future of its candidate and whether to withdraw the nomination. Todays decision is hence good news for Germany's presidential incumbent, Horst Köhler, who is running for re-election.
Secondly, the party needs to decide on how to integrate the left wing of the Social Democrats. With Müntefering as party chairman, Steinmeier as their candidate for chancellor and Peter Struck as leader of the Social Democrats in parliament, the conservative wing is now leading the entire party and left-wing members have virtually no representative left in the upper party echelons. The party will have to find a way to introduce a left-wing representative in one of its top-spots.

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