Wowereit’s successor: who will open ber airport?

The candidates for the office of Governing Mayor in Berlin are ready. But no one enters the race without a shortcoming.

Who will sit in the chair of Berlin’s Governing Mayor in the future? Picture: dpa

Klaus Wowereit’s resignation announcement was barely an hour old when the first successor candidate declared himself: parliamentary group leader Raed Saleh, 37, wants to become the new Governing Mayor of Berlin in December. But others are also considered contenders for the office, which Wowereit on Tuesday called "one of the greatest challenges in German politics": a woman, a shamed party leader, the man who toppled him, and an independent.

Their problem, just like Saleh’s: none of them, and none of them, has been entirely convincing so far. Saleh was hailed as the crown prince by Der Spiegel in April. He emphasizes mantra-like to make left-wing but unideological politics, and this successfully with his colleague from the CDU faction.

Saleh has turned the parliamentary group, which in the past was often nothing more than a nodding machine for government policy, into a power center of its own alongside the Senate and the party leadership. In doing so, he tries to appeal to middle-class circles, praises the work of the police, criticizes a lack of respect for civil servants, and yet sees all this as left-wing politics.

But: Saleh is no orator – which becomes all the clearer when he has the misfortune to be followed in the House of Representatives by Klaus Wowereit. Saleh, who was born in the former West Bank and came to Berlin as a child, has a sentence structure that has been described as woodcut-like. When the development of the Tempelhofer Feld was debated in the House of Representatives in the spring, he argued with the need for toilets and formulated: "Even a green hippie has to take a leak.

Wowereit’s Crown Prince

Michael Muller, 49, who has been senator for urban development since 2011, can talk much better than Wowereit’s natural crown prince as a longtime party and parliamentary group leader. But that didn’t help him when he was voted out of office as SPD state leader at a party convention two years ago and replaced by Jan Stob, 41, who has been chairman since then. Muller, who also led the parliamentary group until the formation of the current red-black Senate, was too close to Wowereit, and the party had too little profile of its own in such a constellation.

The Berlin SPD members will decide directly on the candidate to succeed head of government Klaus Wowereit. After a decision of the state executive committee there will be a member vote on two personnel proposals, announced the deputy state chairman Fritz Felgentreu on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Berlin’s SPD state chairman Jan Stob has announced that he wants to become governing mayor in the German capital. This has sparked an open power struggle between him and parliamentary group leader Raed Saleh over who will succeed Klaus Wowereit. (dpa)

Stob has certainly given the Berlin SPD more standing at the federal level and is also the first state leader to make it onto the federal executive committee. But party members increasingly accuse him of positioning himself too much as Wowereit’s replacement.

The candidate, Dilek Kolat, 47, has been Senator for Labor, Integration and Women for two and a half years. A woman with a warm demeanor and outfits in sometimes garish colors. It was she who, in the spring, broke the deadlocked conflict over a refugee camp in a public square in the Kreuzberg district. Thanks to her, the violent police intervention that had previously seemed inevitable did not occur. Her name had been traded for months, but on Tuesday she put an end to the speculation, saying she was not available to succeed her.

While the problem with all four of these is not necessarily overwhelming public support, it would be the least of the problems with the fifth potential candidate. Ulrich Nubbaum, 57, has long been the most popular top politician in the state in polls, even though he – a finance senator since 2009 – is not one who would have secured votes with tax giveaways. Nubbaum is eloquent, could also pass for a dressman for elegant men’s fashion and, as a wealthy ex-businessman, is independent of the political establishment. But he is not a member of the SPD, nor does he want to become one, and would therefore be difficult to convince the comrades. "A party card per se says nothing about the quality of the policy you make," Nubbaum said only recently – not a sentence that even any party likes to hear.

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