The chairman of the youth wing of Germany’s Social Democrats, Kevin Kühnert will leave his post a year ahead of schedule to free himself up to run for a seat in the German Bundestag in Germany’s 2021 federal elections, he told the Tagesspiegel newspaper on Monday.
Kühnert said that leaving early this coming November and allowing a change in leadership at the SPD’s “Jusos” (“young socialists”) youth wing ahead of the general election would be “the best possible time” for a handover.
Kühnert said that he would prefer his successor to be female, and that they should “put their own stamp on the SPD election campaign.”
The 31-year-old said that he would run for the Berlin constituency of Tempelhof-Schöneberg in the 2021 elections.
Kühnert told Tagesspiegel that his ambitions were welcomed “very benevolently” in the SPD district executive committee and that he had good chances of winning the direct mandate in Tempelhof-Schöneberg, a “traditionally social democratic stronghold.” The seat is currently in Christian Democrat hands.
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The 31-year-old is in his second term as Jusos chairman, having started in 2017, and it’s probably fair to assert he’s among the ailing SPD’s more famous faces of any age domestically. Outspoken and quick-witted, he’s courted new supporters and also put off the old guard with some of his stances, which are typically well to the left of the mainstream for the party. Suggesting that companies’ profits be split on a cooperative basis and arguing that nobody should own more property than they require to live in prompted more senior members of the party to decry the young firebrand in the past. One veteran SPD parliamentarian, Johannes Kahrs, asked: “What was he smoking? It can’t have been legal.”
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In his twenties, he rose to nationwide prominence leading the resistance to the SPD signing up for another term as junior coalition partners to their rival Christian Democrats. His #NoGroko (“no grand coalition”) campaign famously faltered, with another Christian-and-Social-Democrat alliance ultimately the only viable government available in Germany after 2017’s election, but it was immensely popular with parts of the party’s base.
Despite his age and not being in parliament, Kühnert was even touted as a potential candidate for the struggling party’s outright leadership last year, but ultimately announced he had no ambitions for the job — yet. Kühnert supported candidates Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans, who went on to win.
For the election cycle, both the CDU and the SPD will revert to type, so to speak. Both are liable to campaign on a platform saying that they intend to fare so well in the vote that they will not require their arch-rivals to form a working coalition, and hope to ally with more natural ideological partners. But in the last four German elections, only once could either party keep this pledge after the votes were counted — the Christian Democrats in 2009. The other three times, only an uneasy alliance of the two main parties worked.
Like many traditional center-left powerhouses in European politics, the SPD has been in serious decline in the past two decades. The party’s last election victory in Germany was in 2002. The last three national elections delivered the SPD’s worst three results in post-war history, with 2017’s 20.5% of the popular vote an all-time low. Some polls even suggest that in 2021, Germany’s Greens might be gunning to usurp the SPD in second place overall.
mvb/msh (dpa, AFP)