Now, it's official. SPD's Peer Steinbrueck (65), former Governor (2002-2005) of the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, former Federal Finance Minister (2005-2009) in Merkel I grand-coalition and MoP since 2009, has been elected front-runner for becoming Germany's next chancellor against Christian-Democratic incumbent Angela Merkel (58) at a 600 delegate party convention in Hanover, Lower Saxony, yesterday.
With some 93.5 % approval rate at the party congress, Steinbrueck got overwhelming support from his party base. He didn't beat around the bush when he indicated in his acknowledgment address that he will only stand as candidate for a "Red-Green" coalition and nothing else.
His going for pole position makes sense, indeed. Recently published polls indicated that a coalition of SPD and Eco-Greens has more percentage points than the current CDU/CSU & FDP - ConLib coalition. The Free Dems even have to face relegation from parliament due to currently being slightly below the 5 pc qualification hurdle, according to pollsters. Albeit being the biggest political power, the Conservatives of Merkel (CDU) and Seehofer (CSU) also need a coalition partner to continue their administration. That is why Steinbrueck is ruling out a renewal of the 2005-2009 grand coalition. Not being the biggest party in a coalition means that he cannot get the top post, right?
A change in government to 'Red-Green' on federal level is far from certain at the moment. Several issues have to be factored in till then. But the first crucial test for Steinbrueck's ambitions will be on January 20th, 2013. On that day, the state legislature of Lower Saxony "Landtag" will be elected for a five-year period. Conservative David J. McAllister (CDU, 41), who is the first state governor with dual citizenship (GER, GBR), has governed this state in the NW of Germany since 2010 as successor of Christian Wulff (former German Federal President / June, 30th, 2010 - Febr. 17th 2012, resignation). McAllister is heading a "Black-Yellow" ConLib coalition with the Free Democrats whose party whip for this state election is Philipp Roesler (39), currently Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister of Economics.
The outcome for the "Landtag" election will be Merkel's and Steinbrueck's "joint" D-Day. If McAllister's coalition was busted this would give crucial thrust for Steinbrueck and a significant blow for Merkel's re-election. Works in opposite direction as well.
I don't think that the electorate wants to bust Roesler's Free Dems and kick them out of federal parliament, the "Bundestag" and lower house of parliament, in fall 2013.
With less than enough seats to form an Red-Green coalition outright, Steinbrueck might seek the help from the Free Dems then and form a 3-way traffic-light coalition.
Schleswig-Holstein's big boss of the Liberals, Wolfgang Kubicki (FDP, 60) might be inclined to then convince his party colleagues to dump Merkel in order to avert a federally disastrous left-of-center 'Red-Green' minority government which is tolerated by the former Socialists/Communists of the so-called "The Leftists" of Gregor Gysi's. Steinbrueck and Kubicki seem to get on rather well.