Germany’s Social Democrats are struggling. Since the departure of the luckless Andrea Nahles, the SPD is currently looking for the fourth time in just two years for a party chairman.
This time the party hopes to copy the Greens by voting in a duo of a woman and a man as leaders. Some 17 candidates were admitted to the casting by the federal executive board, in which the six doubles and one individual were listed to convince the party’s base.
On Wednesday, the first “regional conference” in Saarbrücken started, which opened with a surprise: the mayor of Flensburg Simone Lange and her counterpart from Bautzen, Alexander Ahrens, gave up their candidacy.
And at the first of the 23 regional conferences, which will be held throughout Germany, the familiar face of Ralf Stegner popped up instead. Stegner is one of the most notorious figures of the extreme left wing of the party now vying for the post of federal chairman.
A “casting” spectator asked Stegner about what he would do to address the fears and concerns of the population. The candidate came up with a quite remarkable answer: “Most people have no problem with Islamizing their church.”
The greatest fears of the Germans, according to him, is rising rents or old-age poverty and not the decades-long migration policy of the Social Democrats. On request, he quickly specified his statement in order to calm the panic that had ensued: “People’s main problem is not that their church could be Islamized.”
For Stegner, who is competing with the 76-year-old SPD veteran Gesine Schwan, the problem lies above all in political competition rather than in the increasing alienation of the Germans from their homeland.
He also launched an attack on one of his predecessors. While he claimed to have “respect for those who have previously held responsibility,” these individuals should “shut up to those who are responsible today”.
Stegner singled out Sigmar Gabriel – the former Minister for the Environment, the Economy and Foreign Affairs as well as the Vice Chancellor who was also SPD chairman from 2009 to 2017.