Polls are slipping, internal matters are circulating, there are disputes about appearances: In the middle of the hot phase of the Hessian election campaign, Nancy Faeser is going through a horror week. What’s wrong with the Interior Minister?
At midday she finally shows herself, there’s Nancy Faeser standing at the desk in the Bundestag and looking annoyed. She went into hiding for a few days because she was ill and couldn’t make an appointment. Now she is targeting her opponents, especially those in the CDU.
“I understand that in the next few weeks you will do everything you can to throw dirt at me,” she shouts. But theater thunder, it’s better to save yourself that. The message: I’ve had enough of the accusations now.
Things are not going well for the Federal Interior Minister, who wants to be elected Prime Minister of Hesse in October. Her campaign has been dragging along for months. Now Faeser is going through a real horror week, marked by disruptive noises, indiscretions and an affair involving a fired official that has been simmering in the background for weeks. Is she stumbling in the hot phase of the election campaign that has just begun?
Hardly a day goes by without discussions about them. Same this Thursday morning. In the morning, many parliamentarians ask themselves: Where is she? The Federal Minister of the Interior apologizes, again.
Instead of Faeser, her state secretary appears for the report in the Bundestag’s Interior Committee. It is now the second meeting that is intended to shed light on the dismissal of cybersecurity chief Arne Schönbohm. And the fibers are missing. It’s a sensitive issue, the controversial transfer has been a problem for them for a long time.
This is reason enough for the Union not to let up. She really pushed for the appointment. Already on Tuesday, the MPs were left sitting by the Interior Minister, who cited health reasons for their absence. And this time? No further details are known.
Does Faeser avoid anything that could put her in an unfavorable light? At least that is the reading of the opposition – which has given Faeser plenty of material to criticize in the past few days. She defended herself at midday when she appeared in the plenary session. “I’m doing my job,” she says. Cybersecurity was important to her and she wanted to strengthen the responsible authority. “This required a reorganization of the top team.”
In the race for the State Chancellery, she has a lot of catching up to do and very quickly. If she still wants to cross the finish line as the winner, Faeser cannot afford any more mistakes. On the contrary: she needs to be successful, she needs to go on the offensive.
Nancy Faeser in a race against time
But nothing seems to be working right now. Last Sunday, Faeser, with the support of Chancellor Olaf Scholz, wanted to start “the hot phase” and start the final spurt, which in Faeser’s case is a race against time: there are only five weeks left for the election. And Faeser, who alternates between Berlin and Hesse in a dual role, is well behind CDU incumbent Boris Rhein in all surveys, in some cases by up to ten percentage points. She tries to stay in the conversation with almost weekly advances from Berlin (EU asylum compromise, new citizenship law, stricter deportation rules, more safe countries of origin). But she has to do without the start-up help from the Chancellor: Scholz is canceling all appointments in Hesse due to a sports injury.
On Tuesday, Faeser’s misery continued. The Federal Minister of the Interior is canceling the first Interior Committee meeting on the Schönbohm case: a “doctor’s appointment as a result of her surviving corona infection,” the Interior Ministry announced. Nevertheless, she gives an interview to the German Press Agency in the morning. How come?
The opposition gratefully accepts the questionable circumstance: “Thank you for being here this morning, Ms. Faeser,” said CDU leader Friedrich Merz on Wednesday during the general debate in the Bundestag, “after you called in sick yesterday and in Wiesbaden dpa interviews have given.” Faeser was excused because of her early doctor’s appointment in the Bundestag, her ministry said. But the suspicion that the Interior Minister could duck away is widespread. The fact that Faeser did not attend the second Interior Committee meeting on the Schönbohm case may not have cleared this up.
The matter was problematic for Faeser from the start. In November, the Interior Minister dismissed the then head of cybersecurity because of his alleged proximity to Russia. But the allegations, which Jan Böhmermann’s satirical program “ZDF Magazin Royale” had previously reported on, could not be substantiated. Did Faeser make a hasty decision? According to the “Bild” newspaper, the minister later even asked the Office for the Protection of the Constitution for information about the deposed head of the authority. Faeser himself denies having used the authority specifically against the officer who was fired. He has now filed a lawsuit – he is demanding compensation from the Interior Ministry for his dismissal.
The Union is outraged, on principle alone: it also has an election campaign to fight in Hesse. As a result, she takes every opportunity to trip up Faeser. For example this Thursday.
“Obviously a reason is being presented here”
Once again it’s about a date that could be disadvantageous for Faeser: the government survey. On September 27th, the Federal Minister of the Interior is scheduled to answer questions from MPs and be peppered with questions on all sorts of topics – just before the state elections in Hesse, of all places.
Faeser initially cancels: scheduling difficulties. This emerges from a letter from the Chancellery to Bundestag President Bärbel Bas (SPD). star present. It is dated last Tuesday. Accordingly, the Federal Minister of the Interior could not take part in the government survey due to her participation in the EU’s JHA Council (Justice and Home Affairs). Instead, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) is supposed to step in, whose turn it would actually only have been in December. Faeser should now get this appointment – so his cabinet colleagues are swapping.
This outrages the Union, with accusations of a “hide-and-seek game” coming from its ranks. “Obviously, a reason is being put forward here to prevent Ms. Faeser from being questioned by the German Bundestag before the Hessian state elections on October 8th,” wrote Hendrik Hoppenstedt, Parliamentary Managing Director of the Union faction, to the Chancellery. This letter, dated last Wednesday, is also due to this star before. The justification is “not acceptable at the outset” because the dates in question do not collide: the government survey will take place on September 27th, the JI Council on September 28th. Hoppenstedt demands that Faeser take part in the government survey “as determined and planned.”
Did Faeser gamble away with their alternative strategy? In any case, the Federal Minister of the Interior suddenly no longer seems to have any scheduling difficulties.
On Thursday afternoon, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior announced in response to a request from star First of all, it is currently being clarified with the Chancellery whether Faeser can take part in the government survey (on September 27th) as originally planned. Half an hour later, the spokesman reports again: Faeser will take part in the government survey. Also at the JI Council the next day? This can be assumed, it is said.
So what was the problem?
Only Faeser probably knows the answer. In any case, the incident makes her seem like a driven person who cannot afford to make a mistake either as interior minister or as an election campaigner – and thus seems to provoke new mistakes. In any case, this week was one to forget for Faeser.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.