Six regional conferences in one week. Who wants to be at the top of the SPD, has to make a good kilometer. Until mid-October there are still 17 scheduled: Erfurt, Filderstadt, Oldenburg, Duisburg, Munich and so on - almost every corner of the country is visited.
The SPD candidate race is on. And it costs strength. Klara Geywitz calls it the "Ironman of the SPD", based on the notorious triathlon in Hawaii. Anyone who gets through this is prepared for anything, says Geywitz, who is running for office with Olaf Scholz.
For their sixth appearance, the candidates have gathered in Nieder-Olm, a small town south of Mainz. The casting routine will be briefly broken on this Tuesday evening: Manuela Schwesig, Prime Minister of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, made public her cancer in the morning and declared her withdrawal from the provisional party leadership.
The SPD is with the heart and thoughts with Schwesig, says host Malu Dreyer to kick off. The Rhineland-Palatinate head of government will lead the party provisionally in the coming weeks, first with Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, from October 1 alone - until a new peak is found.
Two candidates are missing in Nieder-Olm. Lower Saxony's Interior Minister Boris Pistorius has to speak in the state parliament in Hanover, and the individual applicant Karl-Heinz Brunner has been apologized. There are still 13 candidates left.
The field of applicants is large, yet the format works well in the party as well. For two and a half hours, the comrades discuss education and tax policy, climate protection and the grand coalition. There are so many questions for the candidates that the moderator has to disappoint some participants. Three teams are most interested: Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans, Christina Kampmann and Michael Roth, as well as Klara Geywitz and Olaf Scholz.
The format does not meet Scholz
The Minister of Finance and Vice Chancellor entered the race for the party presidency late. Now he is one of the favorites, if only because his offices give him weight.
Hardly anyone expects Scholz to be elected in the first member survey. For this he would have to get more than 50 percent of the votes. But even in the runoff election, even those comrades who are not among his supporters see him.
Klara Geywitz and Olaf Scholz at the regional conference in Bernburg in Saxony-Anhalt
But it will not be easy, as the first base meetings have shown. Scholz does not oppose the format with the one-minute speeches. Honored: He needs time to develop his thoughts. The gaudy slogan, the passionate pose, that is not the 61-year-old, who is mocked by his inner party opponents as "Scholzomat" and "Man of the Hamburg-Mannheimer".
In addition: Scholz stands for the old SPD, for the permanent crisis, for the GroKo. Since 2005, the Social Democrats have governed for ten years together with the CDU and CSU. "Young people only know us as junior partners of the Union," says member of parliament Saskia Esken. "We have to change that." Most clearly, Nina Scheer and Karl Lauterbach are in favor of leaving the coalition - and they regularly receive a lot of applause at the regional conferences.
Candidate for party presidency
Scholz tries a double strategy. For one, he gives himself so left, so social-democratic, as it has rarely heard of him in recent years. He promises the financial transaction tax, warns of the division of society and wants to strengthen the welfare state to fight the right-wing populists.
On the other hand, Scholz wants to emphasize that it is worthwhile to govern. He refers to his time as First Mayor in Hamburg and says that it is not enough to address problems only. For example in education policy. This is talked about in talk shows too much - without any of it being implemented. "It's not about hits, but about young people," says Scholz.
In Hamburg he tried to follow the same path as the Rhineland-Palatinate government: toll-free day-care centers, all-day care in schools, youth employment agencies, abolition of tuition fees. All this Social Democrats could do - if they rule.
Much approval for GroKo opponents
Scholz therefore endeavors to caress the social-democratic soul - and at the same time to emphasize the advantages of pragmatic government action. Can this work?
The opponents of the Grand Coalition receive great approval on the SPD Tour. Because with the Union many social democratic ideas are not feasible, you have to get out, say Lauterbach and Scheer. Also Hilde Mattheis and Dierk Hirschel are clear GroKo opponents. Ralf Stegner and Gesine Schwan as well as Esken and Walter-Borjans express their doubts about the alliance with the Union less placardly but audibly.
Scholz 'chance could be that the teams of the party left each other's votes. At present, it is not expected that another duo will retire. Who leads the party in the future, decide about 420,000 members in the end. And they have a month left to decide. The vote begins on October 14th.
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