Rhineland-Palatinate: “Power is running out” – Dreyer hands over to Schweitzer

Rhineland-Palatinate: “Power is running out” – Dreyer hands over to Schweitzer
Rhineland-Palatinate: “Power is running out” – Dreyer hands over to Schweitzer

To explain her retirement from politics, Dreyer links arms with her designated successor. Schweitzer speaks of the end of an era. There is also a lot of recognition from federal politics.

The SPD, which has governed Rhineland-Palatinate for 33 years, is reorganizing itself and is continuing to rely on a dual leadership. Prime Minister Malu Dreyer announced her resignation in Mainz on Wednesday after eleven years in office. The 63-year-old justified the move in Mainz by saying that she was running out of energy. This means that the number of women in the 16-member group of state government leaders has now shrunk to just two – Manuela Schwesig in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Anke Rehlinger in Saarland (both SPD).

Dreyer’s successor at the head of the government is to be the 50-year-old Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Alexander Schweitzer (SPD), and his election in the state parliament is planned for July 10. According to Dreyer, the SPD parliamentary group voted unanimously in favour of him on Wednesday. A woman will be promoted to a top party position. SPD parliamentary group leader Sabine Bätzing-Lichtenthäler is to succeed Roger Lewentz as chairwoman of the state party, probably at a party conference in November.

“I leave with a heavy heart”

Dreyer spoke of a difficult decision. “I’m leaving with a heavy heart,” she said. “I had no reason to be discouraged. I’m just tired, not tired of my job. I’m running out of energy,” explained Dreyer, visibly moved. “I’m 63, so not very old. But I have to admit, it’s not like it was when I was 50.” Dreyer continued: “My batteries don’t recharge as quickly anymore.” After the change of office, she wants to do nothing for a while and just rest.

The 63-year-old has multiple sclerosis (MS) and is open about her illness, but did not mention it in connection with her resignation. The decision to resign had matured in recent weeks and was made a few days ago, said Dreyer. Dreyer was diagnosed with the disease in 1995 and the politician made it public in 2006. MS is an inflammatory disease that affects the central nervous system and its course can vary greatly.

Scholz accepts resignation with “great respect”

Numerous top politicians acknowledged Dreyer’s achievements. SPD federal leader Saskia Esken called her “one of the most successful prime ministers in Germany,” and North Rhine-Westphalia’s CDU prime minister Hendrik Wüst (CDU) called her a convinced and passionate democrat. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) received the announced resignation “with great respect.” “He values ​​her very much as a reliable and popular politician who is not without reason so popular,” said deputy government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann in Berlin.

With regard to her designated successor in Rhineland-Palatinate, Dreyer said she was sure that she was putting her office in the best hands. Schweitzer was the right man at this moment. In addition to Schweitzer, possible successors included Interior Minister Michael Ebling (SPD) and the current parliamentary group leader Bätzing-Lichtenthäler, who will now become SPD state leader. Regarding Ebling, Dreyer said on Wednesday: “Every government needs a strong interior minister, especially at this time.”

Schweitzer spoke of the end of an era. “I’m stepping into very big shoes,” said the Palatinate native, who is over two meters tall. There is an excellent coalition agreement that he wants to continue to implement. As a different personality, he will also set different accents. He wants to continue with the traffic light coalition after 2026.

The designated successor Schweitzer sees “end of an era”

His successor in the ministerial office has not yet been decided. It is too early for that, said Schweitzer. There will be no cabinet reshuffle. The family man said of the career jump: “My wife is taking it with great composure. We have known each other since school.” He will work well with Bätzing-Lichtenthäler, he has known her since her Juso days.

Dreyer’s announcement comes a week and a half after the Social Democrats suffered a setback in the European elections and the local elections in Rhineland-Palatinate. In the European elections on June 9, the SPD’s share of the vote fell to 17.5 percent, a loss of 3.8 percentage points. In the local elections held at the same time, the Social Democrats lost 2.4 percentage points and achieved 20.2 percent nationwide.

Dreyer stressed that the recent election results had played no role in her decision. She called the Ahr Valley flood of 2021 a painful turning point in her term in office, which divided her life into a before and after. Schweitzer announced that reconstruction in the Ahr Valley would be a personal focus of his term in office. What she regrets most is that it was not possible to limit the influence of non-democrats more, said Dreyer.

Political scientist speaks of good timing

Schweitzer, an avowed fan of 1. FC Kaiserslautern, now has the opportunity to go into the next state election, which is scheduled to take place in spring 2026, as an already well-known head of government. Political scientist Uwe Jun confirmed that Dreyer had chosen a good time to resign, almost two years before the election.

Dreyer has been head of government in Rhineland-Palatinate since 2013. She succeeded Kurt Beck in the office, initially leading a red-green state government and, since 2016, a traffic light coalition of the SPD, Greens and FDP, which – unlike the one at federal level – operates largely quietly. Beck had also – surprisingly – introduced Dreyer as his successor – more than three years before the 2016 state election. Then, as now, the decision about the change at the top of the government remained within the inner circle of the SPD until shortly before the announcement.

Source: Stern

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