BERLIN — German Interior Minister Nancy Fesser’s decision to stay in office while campaigning in a regional election has sparked criticism within the coalition government.
Fesser is his Social Democratic Party’s top candidate in Hesse’s regional elections this fall but remains in the federal cabinet, the first federal minister in a decade to express concern about his ability to divide time between running a ministry and the regional campaign trail.
Asked by POLITICO on Monday if there were any rules governing the combination of campaigning and office-holding, a spokesman for his ministry said at a press briefing, “It is certainly a democratic matter that people run for office in a democratic election, just like all prime ministers.. .and… the current Chancellors [do]”
Pfizer said she was “running to win” and was set to become the first female regional leader of Hesse, a state in the heart of Germany with 6 million inhabitants.
But if he fails to take the Hessian state chancellery in Wiesbaden, he plans to continue as Germany’s interior minister, he wrote in an internal letter to ministry staff, seen by Politico, and then announced it in an interview with Spiegel magazine.
While other contenders also have full-time jobs in higher positions — including current Minister-President Boris Rhine of Hesse and his Green deputy Tarek Al-Wazir of the Christian Democratic Union — the public debate has focused primarily on Feusser, who leads the SPD. Hesse since 2019, and insists he will continue being A federal minister “with full force.”
Not everyone buys his promise.
“In times like these, you can’t politically dance at two weddings at the same time,” said Konstantin von Notz, senior Bundestag member of the Greens. Wolfgang Kubicki, a Free Democrat lawmaker and Bundestag vice president, said the interior ministry was “not a suitable campaign platform at this critical time.”
Chancellor Olaf Scholz came to the defense of his minister and party colleague late last week, saying Fesser would continue his ministerial duties despite his decision to run for the top job in Hesse.
“Nancy Pfizer, who I know to be a very dedicated woman, would do anything every day for the job she did,” Scholz said.
The minister’s decision came as little surprise, as rumors that he might run for office in Hesse have been swirling for nearly a year.
Former Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said in May 2022, “I am counting on Nancy Fesser not only to be the SPD’s top candidate in Hesse next year, but also to be the first female minister-president in Hesse.” ,” Feusser replied at the time about leaving Berlin.
The change of heart comes as Germany’s interior ministry faces several pressing issues, including right-wing extremism, Islamist terror attacks, immigration policy and tackling organized crime. Faisar has to deal with those challenges — and oversee a ministry with about 19 agencies and a total of 85,000 employees — as well as run election campaigns.
As a result, his potential move from Berlin to Wiesbaden has brought his track record, including in the cyber field, under scrutiny.
“He hasn’t achieved many visible results yet,” IT security expert Manuel Atug told Politico in December. He seems not to understand that “the alliance agreement is a work order for him,” he added.
The home ministry is supposed to deliver key coalition policies, such as strengthening the country’s cyber security agency, the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). However, Fosser fired its president Arne Schoenbohm last October, after claims he had ties to Russia were widely denied.
In the latest Infratest poll, from October, the SPD had 22 percent – 5 percentage points behind the CDU, which currently leads the coalition with the Greens.