SPD politician Thomas Oppermann: The unfinished

In 2021 Thomas Oppermann will no longer run for the Bundestag. What he would have loved to become, he didn’t become.

Power politician and yet unpretentious: Thomas Oppermann Photo: Christian Spicker / imago-images

BERLIN taz | He was culture minister in Hanover, parliamentary manager of the SPD parliamentary group, head of the parliamentary group, for a while the face of the SPD in talk shows and is vice president of the Bundestag. But what Thomas Oppermann, 66, would have loved to become, he did not become: Minister in Berlin. In 2013 he wanted and failed to be a man from Lower Saxony. With Sigmar Gabriel and , there were already two of them. The Ministry of the Interior kept the union, Heiko Maas became Minister of Justice in 2013.

Oppermann, who won the direct mandate in Göttingen four times, does not want to run again in 2021. In a statement from his office it is said that he was “unable to achieve the goal of becoming Federal Minister of the Interior in order, among other things, to implement a progressive and controlled migration policy”. To say goodbye to what didn’t work is unusual, kind of casual.

As a political figure, Oppermann has two things. He was a tough power politician who made few friends in the federal parliamentary group, especially among the SPD left. As parliamentary manager, the parliamentary group once gave him a modest result. It was said that he cares too much about his buddies, too little about the parliamentary group.

Oppermann polarized and, as a generalist, was able to attack the opponents on almost any topic, but was extremely flexible when the general weather situation changed. In 2013 he sharply criticized for the NSA bugging affair. The FAZ wrote at the time: “The man shoots off as if he wanted to win the golden needle of all Social Democrats.” As soon as the grand coalition began in 2013, Oppermann threw cotton wool.

Edathy affair cleverly survived

The Edathy affair shows that he could act hard and clever. Oppermann had confidential information about justiciable allegations against SPD man Edathy, which he had confirmed by the Federal Criminal Police Office – a borderline behavior. But he got through the crisis with good nerves.

Oppermann was always quite resistant to the temptation to confuse himself with the meaning of office, which is more the exception than the rule in the Berlin business. It also fits into the picture that when left-wing students occupied the SPD office in Göttingen, he did not call the police, but served coffee to the occupiers.

Since he became Vice President of the Bundestag in 2017, his demeanor has changed. He is no longer the sharp-tongued aggressor but, in keeping with his position, reserved. At recent SPD party congresses, Oppermann appeared less as a fighter in the fray than as an amused, relaxed spectator. In this respect, his withdrawal is not entirely surprising.

So now retirement at 67? Then not that. “After 30 years as a member of parliament, now is the right time for me to undertake new projects,” said Oppermann. Which one is still open.


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