Germany’s interior minister makes risky run for state office

Feb 1, 2023, 7:31 PM | Updated: Feb 2, 2023, 11:47 am
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser prior to the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Ber...

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser prior to the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Feb. 1, 2023. Germany’s interior minister said Thursday Feb. 2, 2023, that she plans to run for governor of her home state this fall but to remain the country’s top security official in the meantime, a politically risky course that already is drawing criticism from opponents. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

(AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s interior minister said Thursday that she plans to run for governor of her home state this fall but remain the country’s top security official in the meantime, a politically risky course that opponents assailed even before the announcement.

Nancy Faeser has been interior minister since Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-party governing coalition took office in 2021. She leads the local branch of Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats in the central state of Hesse, which will elect a new state legislature in October.

“I’m the first woman to head the Interior Ministry, and I would like to be the first female governor of Hesse,” Faeser told news magazine Der Spiegel.

Faeser’s potential candidacy had long been rumored as, in recent days, had her plan to keep running Germany’s security apparatus while running.

That prompted Germany’s main opposition party, the center-right Christian Democratic Union, to urge her to leave the Cabinet if she ran — arguing that the country’s security isn’t a part-time job at a time of heightened threats.

Faeser told Der Spiegel that she “took on responsibility for a very difficult office in very difficult times.” She added that “this responsibility requires me to carry out my tasks just as clearly and seriously as before.”

She said that she has already been opposition leader in Hesse, and if she isn’t elected as governor “I will continue to do justice to my responsibility as federal interior minister.”

Asked about the issue Thursday evening at a town hall event in Marburg, a city in Hesse, Scholz responded that Faeser is “very, very conscientious” and “will do everything every day for the job she has.”

Faeser’s prospects are uncertain in Hesse, which includes Germany’s financial capital, Frankfurt. It was once a Social Democratic stronghold but has been led since 1999 by the center-right CDU — currently in a coalition with the environmentalist Greens, one of the junior partners in Scholz’s national government.

Faeser faces a tough race against both center-right incumbent Boris Rhein and his Green deputy, Tarek Al-Wazir.

She dismissed comparisons with a disastrous 2012 run by then-Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen to be governor of Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia. The center-right Roettgen, who faced criticism for not committing himself to stay in state politics whatever the outcome, was fired by then-Chancellor Angela Merkel after a heavy defeat.

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Germany’s interior minister makes risky run for state office