Officially, there is no such thing as the title of the weakest cabinet member most prone to bankruptcies and breakdowns. But Secretary of Defense Christine Lambrecht appears determined to work toward that “award.” After all her mistakes and omissions in her department, she is now getting her cabinet colleague Nancy Faeser in trouble.

Although the defense minister currently has really important construction sites that she is only inadequately managing, she now gave the impression that she wanted to oust Faeser from the interior ministry. After all, she would rather sit there than at her current job. Although that’s really not her “beer”, the listless minister promoted her comrade Faeser to the top candidate for the Hessian state elections in autumn 2023. Then Lambrecht’s desired ministry would be free.

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Faeser reacted immediately. “I don’t intend to do that,” she told the “Bild am Sonntag”. And: She’s going to the 2024 European Football Championship as Minister of Sport. Which of course wasn’t a hard denial. After all, Faeser would not be the first politician to change her own plans when her own party asks her to do so and the voters provide appropriate support.

When Olaf Scholz brought Faeser, a member of the Hessian state parliament and SPD state chairman, who was completely unknown in federal politics, into his cabinet, it was clear to all observers that this appointment was not based solely on factual considerations. The lawyer was also the leader of the opposition in the Wiesbaden state parliament and was therefore set as the top candidate for the 2023 state elections. And when she was recently re-elected as SPD state chairman with a very good 94 percent, that was also a preliminary decision for the top candidate. Faeser spoke from the soul of the delegates when she announced after her election, “my heart is in Hessen”. At the same time, she promised to fight “that Hesse turns red again.” If that wasn’t a reference to the state chancellery, then what was?

dr Hugo Müller-Vogg is a journalist, book author and former editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).

If comrade Lambrecht secretly hopes that Faeser could vacate the Ministry of the Interior long before the election date so that she can concentrate entirely on the election campaign, she is probably wrong. Faeser’s house is not a large and labor-intensive one. At the same time, however, it offers an almost ideal platform for an election campaigner due to the large number of political areas located here. Internal security, integration or sports promotion, all of this could be presented to the Hessian voters as proof of qualification for the office of Prime Minister.

No one knows how long Lambrecht, who is primarily concerned with self-defence, will still be in office. Olaf Scholz is still sticking to her because the weak current account of his defense minister does not exactly put his personnel policy in a bright light. But at some point even the chancellor could get too much, which by far the weakest member of the cabinet would smash as an “elephant” in a Berlin china shop if the day was long and there was a microphone nearby.

In any case, Lambrecht not only harmed herself, but also her ministerial colleague. She knows the Hessian situation very well and knows that the current polls allow a continuation of black and green. In addition, it is quite possible that the previous state parliament president Boris Rhein (CDU), who is to replace the long-term head of government Volker Bouffier on May 31, could provide new impetus with a new government team.

It is therefore quite possible that Faeser will even decide against a top candidate in Hesse at the beginning of next year. After all, she would have to promise voters that she would switch to Wiesbaden even if she lost the election. Going to a state election with a return ticket to Berlin, as Norbert Röttgen tried to do in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2010, can go terribly wrong. In any case, Röttgen has not recovered from this disaster within the party to this day.

Lambrecht didn’t just get Faeser into trouble with her advance. In the Chancellery and in the SPD leadership, one should also be “not amused”. This begs the question of whether Lambrecht wanted to urge Faeser to make a decision for Hesse and against Berlin out of his own interest, or whether she did not realize the damage she was doing. Every answer makes one thing clear: Lambrecht is overwhelmed.

Incidentally, it would not be the first time that a federal interior minister has run for the office of prime minister in Hesse. In 1995, Manfred Kanther from the CDU tried. He was defeated by the incumbent Prime Minister Hans Eichel (SPD).