G erman social democrats have a very important place in Europe's history. After being formed as the German Workers Union in 1863, they became the Social Democrat Workers Party in 1869. In 1875 they came together under the roof of the German Socialist Workers Party. Today's Social Democratic Party (SPD) was formed in 1890.
It is the oldest party in Germany that still exists. We are talking about a political movement existing for 156 years. It has had an important position not only in Germany's fate, but also in Europe's fate.
However, today, it is suffering a great crisis. By suffering the worst election results in its recent history, the party has lost first place in Germany and sometimes second. Its member numbers have decreased to 400,000 from 600,000, and it is still losing members.
The SPD that shaped today's EU in the past with chancellors or SPD presidents like Willy Brandt or Helmut Schmidt or the late Gerhard Schröder who left their marks on history, is far from its old glory today.
The SPD, which is losing the confidence of German voters, is unable to follow the New World Order and the rise of the far right in Europe. It is unable to produce policies directed toward these. It has a leader problem. If we are to analyze how the SPD came to this situation, the reasons for the SPD's fall will not fit in this newspaper column. However, despite all of this, it still retains its place as the biggest and most important party for social democrats in Europe. Thus, we follow the SPD closely. For Europe's democracy, the role of the SPD is important and valuable. Similarly for the future of the EU, we should not disregard the role of Germany and as a result of a strengthening SPD. To get out of this dire situation, the SPD, for the first time in its party's history, has shifted to the "co-president" model and is going to elect co-presidents. To make the SPD a strong party again, seven "co-president candidate teams" are competing with each other. In the SPD congress to be held on Dec. 6 and Dec. 8, the first co-presidents will be elected. In this congress, the SPD will also decide whether it will stay in the federal government as a coalition partner with the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) and the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU). Thus, the congress concerns Germany, the EU and the world. Whether a government change or early elections will occur in Germany or not will be revealed in this congress. In this decision, the new co-president team elected will also be a determinant.
For this reason, I would like to present the candidates.
Sixty-one-year-old Federal Finance Minister and Chancellor Aid Olaf Scholz and 43-year-old Klara Geywitz, as of now are considered to be the strongest co-president candidates. Olaf Scholz, who originally had no desire to be a candidate but who ended up having to, by taking Klara Geywitz from the parties "second-row group" is trying to gain the support of the party base.
Since he knows he isn't liked well enough in the party, he is trying to make up for it with Klara Geywitz.
The 61-year-old previous Sachsen "adaptation" minister Petra Köpping and 59-year-old Niedersachsen Internal Affairs Minister Boris Pistorius are also co-president candidates. It is regarded positively for both of them to have government experience. But both of them also suffer the same "If we choose these, nothing will change" criticism that Olaf Scholz is facing. The party base is reacting after seeing the same names following many defeats. The 76-year-old Gesine Schwan and 59-year-old Ralf Stegner are identified as "famous losers" as previous co-president candidates. Gesine Schwan lost as a presidential candidate.
Ralf Stegner, on the other hand, was unable to win Schleswig-Holstein provincial elections. For a new start, they are evaluated as a team that is both old and unsuccessful. Forty-seven-year-old federal MP Nina Scheer, and 56-year-old Karl Lauterbach who made a name in health policies is an attractive co-president team for the leftist faction that says, "Let's get out of the federal coalition." However, they don't have a chance of getting the necessary majority.
Thirty-nine-year-old Lower Rheine Westphalia Provincial Assembly MP Christina Kampmann and 49-year-old Europe Minister Michael Roth, as the first candidates to declare their candidacies for the co-presidency, are seen as rather challenging.
However, when compared to strong names "leaning toward staying in the government" like Olaf Scholz and Boris Pistorius, they don't have any real weight.
Hilde Mattheis, a well-known 64-year-old social democrat and 48-year-old unionist Dierk Hirschel are forming a radical left co-presidency team and since they have a rather small base on the SPD's left, they don't have much of a chance.
Fifty-eight-year-old federal MP Saskia Esken and 66-year-old Lower Rheine Westphalia Province previous Finance Minister Norbert Walter-Bojans also do not have any chance of being elected when compared to their better-known opponents.
The SPD congress on Dec. 6 and Dec. 8 in Berlin will be a congress where heated debates between those who say, "let's stay in the federal government" and "let's get out of the federal government and become the opposition" will be experienced. Nowadays, the candidates are trying to win over delegates by becoming guests in provincial organizations and explaining, "how they are going to make the change."
If politicians like Olaf Scholz or Boris Pistorius who are of the "Gerhard Schröder style" are to be elected as co-presidents even if the SPD's voter numbers do not increase, it will surely stay in the federal government until the general elections in 2021. If the opposite happens, we will watch what happens in Germany and the role the Greens take together.