A disgrace? No, no blasphemy. On the contrary. On Tuesday afternoon, Johannes Kahrs, a member of parliament from Hamburg, calmly presented his statement to the SPD parliamentary group, according to Rolf Mützenich’s confidants the day after. Quiet, but emotional. And in essence, Kahrs said nothing else than the group leader. That he was interested in the office of military commissioner last year and that Mützenich promised him to make a successful application out of it. No more and no less.
The blaze was only there when Kahrs relented on Wednesday morning. In an interview with the “Hamburger Abendblatt” he explained why he had thrown in a big bang on Tuesday. His Bundestag mandate, his position as the group’s budget spokesman, his role as spokesman for the more conservative “Seeheimer Kreis”, his political offices in Hamburg. All that had made the Colonel of the Reserve one of the most influential Berlin strippers in recent years.
“Get a commitment from the group chairman”
As early as October, he had declared his interest in the post of military commissioner, Kahrs reported now: “After two weeks of thinking, I received the commitment of the group chairman.” At the beginning of the year, he was then informed that there were difficulties with the Union, since it was not guaranteed that ‘everyone would choose me from the Union’. Although he had “pleasant discussions with colleagues from the other groups (except, of course, the AfD),” he was told last week by the group leader that “I am no longer set.”
This means that testimony is now against statement. Kahrs, who claims that Mützenich gave him a “commitment” for the post of military commissioner. And Mützenich, who claims that he has only promised Kahrs to try everything to make it a successful application. So what is true?
Kahrs has been diving since yesterday. You can’t ask him. In Mützenich’s entourage, on the other hand, it is confirmed that the two actually talked to each other in October. But the group leader did not even show a preference for Kahrs in this conversation. After all, there were other names in the conversation. Which, you don’t want to say.
Mützenich is regarded by many of his colleagues in Berlin as the “Oracle of Cologne”. The SPD Bundestag group leader likes to stay in the rough and gets into hints. It is quite possible that Kahrs interpreted the Mützenich-Raunen more clearly than it was meant. A few weeks after his conversation, on November 13, he seemed at least pretty sure of his cause. In the Committee on Budgets, he ensured that the authority of the military commissioner was endowed with four additional posts – past incumbent Hans-Peter Bartels.
Bartels had also expressed his interest in a second term in mid-October. Why not? In the Bundeswehr and among many members of the government and opposition, the long-standing Social Democrat defence politician is regarded as an ideal appointment for the office. But Bartels also received no clear signals as to what would happen to him after his term ended in mid-May.
So the situation was: Kahrs seemed certain of his cause, Bartels was held up, and the “Oracle of Cologne” played for time. It was unclear whether the Union would grant the SPD the right to propose the coveted post at all, according to the statement from Mützenich. That is another reason why the matter took so long.
The coalition agreement does not regulate the allocation of the post. By handshake, the then leaders of the Union and SPD, Volker Kauder and Andrea Nahles, agreed that the SPD should be given the right to propose, but this agreement was forgotten by the departure of the two. A call to Kauder, and the uncertainty was eliminated.
But Mützenich was in no hurry. He seemed to be looking for a reason why he could not decide. First it was uncertainty about the right to propose, then it was the alleged reservations in the Union against Kahrs that made a quick decision impossible.
“This is a nice attempt by the SPD to blame us,” says Florian Hahn, a long-time CSU defense politician, a close confidant of party leader Markus Söder. “We have never tried to prevent Mr Kahrs.” Even if the Union had preferred to have confirmed Bartels in office.
Personnel policy shambles
So why did Mützenich delay the decision further and further? Because he actually saw the post as a political shift, some of his colleagues believe. That is why Bartels was out of the question, and not because there were political or human differences with him. The group leader needed the post to generate new posts. For this, the successful incumbent had to be sacrificed. From this perspective, Mützenich’s surprise candidate Eva Högl is an ideal cast.
If she is elected to parliament this Thursday, the Berlin MP will have to relinquish her Bundestag mandate. She could be followed by Berlin’s mayor, Michael Müller, who could vacate his place for Family Minister Fransziska Giffey. The influential “Seeheimer” Dirk Wiese, who is now relincing the coveted post of Russia coordinator, has already advanced to Högl’s post as deputy group leader.
It is therefore an ideal opportunity for a group leader to create loyalties and dependencies with offices.
If that had indeed been Mützenich’s consideration, it would have gone terribly wrong. At the end of this week, he faces a shambles in terms of personnel policy. With Bartels, he has forced a respected military commissioner out of office, Kahrs, a controversial but at the same time assertive deputy, turns his back on politics, and the 265,000 soldiers and civilian members of the Bundeswehr must feel like a pawn in the post.
“Now we know why Mützenich has only been runner-up in the group for so long,” blasphemes an influential Union man. And former Kiel mayor and journalist Susanne Gaschke declared her SPD party exit in Die Welt on Wednesday. “I don’t care how you deal with the man I love,” wrote the wife of Hans-Peter Bartels: “I’m different from you. You don’t care about anything now.”