• Germany's news in English
 

'I'm a wealthy man in the eyes of many citizens'

Published: 10 Dec 2012 14:58 GMT+01:00

Seen as a prickly but bright politician who once served under Merkel as Germany's finance minister, Steinbrück won plaudits for his handling of the 2008 financial crisis. But the 65-year-old father-of-three from the northern German city of Hamburg now has the uphill task of stopping the world's most powerful woman from winning a third term.

He was nominated officially by his centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) at a special conference on Sunday in Hannover, with 93.45 percent of the party faithful behind him. Burly and bespectacled, Steinbrück has an abrasive manner that should stand him in good stead when battling the German chancellor on the hustings and spice up the campaign for the election expected to be held in September.

Voters recently had a taste of his fiery debating style in the Bundestag lower house of parliament, notably when he accused Merkel of doing the "dance of the seven veils" on saving Greece and challenging her to "tell it how it is." He has also vowed to make the occasionally drab world of German politics somewhat more colourful, saying: "This should not be a boring election campaign. This should not be a humourless campaign. There must be fun and a few jokes."

And he showed plenty of touches of his acerbic sense of humour during a speech lasting nearly two hours ahead of his nomination.

"Mrs Merkel said she is running the best and most successful government since reunification (in 1990). I have rarely laughed so much," said Steinbrück to tumultuous applause. But he has an uphill task ahead of him, with opinion polls suggesting Merkel's conservatives enjoy a significant lead over the SPD, which has found it difficult to dent her popularity.

Off to a rocky start

He has not been helped by a rocky start to his campaign, first accused of using his influence when finance minister to gain sponsorship for a chess match, then admitting he earned €1.25 million ($1.61 million) for speeches.

"In the eyes of many citizens, I'm a wealthy man," Steinbrück said in his speech in Hannover. "That's correct, but what does a bank statement, what does a standard of living say about a person's readiness and ability to help those citizens who are worse off? Nothing. Nothing at all."

Seen as being towards the right of the centre-left Social Democrats, Steinbrück will have to work hard even to persuade his own party faithful to back him, said political analyst Gerd Langguth.

"He will try to pull together the different wings of the party, especially the left wing. His problem for the campaign is that he doesn't have the whole party behind him," he said.

Seeking to appeal to the left, Steinbrück said he would put social justice and equality at the heart of his election bid.

During his stint in Merkel's coalition cabinet, the trained economist worked closely with her to mitigate the effects of the financial crisis caused by the 2008 collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers, and enjoyed a high international profile. Many in financial circles considered them the "dream team" to lead Germany out of the crisis.

It was "his biggest political act", said one of his biographers, Daniel Friedrich Sturm. He acted with "composure, assurance and determination" to put out the fires, said the author. Like Merkel, "he analyses situations soberly, understands everything very quickly and has a slightly cynical sense of humour," he added.

A man of action

Gero Neugebauer, political scientist at the Free University in Berlin, also said Steinbrück's style was similar to that of Merkel's, although more dynamic. "If Merkel is often described as hesitant, Steinbrück is a man of action," said Neugebauer.

But his sense of humour has at times landed him in hot water and led to one newspaper dubbing him the "most hated man in Switzerland" after he compared the Swiss to "Indians" during a bitter tax row between the two neighbours.

And his off-the-cuff comments to journalists have also prompted unintended consequences. During a period of volatility on the foreign exchange markets, Steinbrück joked: "I love cash and I love a strong euro," causing pandemonium on trading floors worldwide, as twitchy analysts interpreted the joke as German acceptance of a high exchange rate.

A sociable man, who enjoys the occasional cigar and whose briefings to journalists over a few beers have been known to extend late into the night, he was said to have good relations with Merkel when they worked together. He quipped that he hopes to have a glass of wine with her after he wins the election, to toast her years as chancellor.

SPD supporters will hope that his campaign follows the example of his favourite animal, the rhinoceros.

"It starts very slowly but when it gets going, nothing can stop it," said Steinbrück.

AFP/DPA/The Local/mry

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

16:07 December 10, 2012 by lucksi
"In the eyes of many citizens, I'm a wealthy man," Steinbrück said in his speech in Hannover. "That's correct, but what does a bank statement, what does a standard of living say about a person's readiness and ability to help those citizens who are worse off? Nothing. Nothing at all."

But if you are full time employed by and for the people, then make this much money on the side; that does say something...
16:24 December 10, 2012 by raandy
I would like to know how he has used his wealth to improve the lives of those with out, or can he only achieve this from public office.

The problem with most rich is that they feel they can never be too rich.

I never liked this individual ,he always comes across as a little too arrogant for me. He could make an excellent chancellor.however. but I remain dubious.
17:38 December 10, 2012 by lucksi
Of course he used the money to help others. Every time the rich buy stuff, it creates demand. Trickle down economics. So having 10 cars because the ash tray could be full or 5 houses is helping the poor...

The only thing missing from US politics is, if he wants a tax cut.
18:00 December 10, 2012 by IchBinKönig
Ha! I LOVE all the Class Warfare these days. You have money = You are a bad person. I'm glad even the Social Justice Marxist are not exempt. Bet they didn't see that coming. :)

It's easier to pull the rich down for 'Justice', than it is to pull the poor up for 'Justice'. TheLocal readership will be happy to hear that the rich will be poorer. However, the poor will be poorer too. But cutting of your nose to spite your face is just your style anyway. Have fun!
18:11 December 10, 2012 by lucksi
I have nothing against people with money.

As long as their vote and their interests carry the same weight as that of a normal person and they pay their frigging taxes. I'm paying mine and am not dying if I have to pay a percent more if I earn more. Same rules for all.

(And not paying 0,003 percent of your networth as a "fine" to stop an investigation into you either)
18:17 December 10, 2012 by Englishted
"politician who once served under Merkel as Germany's finance minister, "

and that is enough for me to dislike him ,if you vote S.P.D. you don't want them to work for or with the C.D.U. the party should purge itself of those who were involved with that groß coalition.Out with the old and in with the new.

@IchBinKönig,

If you have such contempt for "TheLocal readership" why prey do you involve yourself? what a strange little minded person you must be.
19:25 December 10, 2012 by raandy
ucksi How to you know this cheap Pri^k bought all those expensive cars and trickel down crap.

The Real rich , those that inherited wealth not those with the 6 figure jobs and rented BMWs. The real rich do not squander their money in instant gratification, no they are like scrooge, they talk to their financial advisors.
19:31 December 10, 2012 by IchBinKönig
@EnlisTed

Because, It's just far too much fun to repeatedly dribble the truth like a football off your ugly skull. Ha
00:08 December 11, 2012 by pepsionice
I hate to point this out....but if you wrote a list of the top ten SPD figures who could run for chancellor....all ten have substantial income levels and are "rich"...so there's no pure candidate of the people from the SPD. The CDU labeled them correctly.....the media bought into this mess and the win is in for the CDU at this point. The only un-rich candidates that a SPD could vote for? Over with the Greens.
03:17 December 11, 2012 by PNWDev
King 2pts

Ted 0pts

My money is on King for another English style beatdown. 1812 from the front row.
08:32 December 11, 2012 by frankiep
@Englishted

"and that is enough for me to dislike him ,if you vote S.P.D. you don't want them to work for or with the C.D.U."

So what exactly are you trying to say here? That if one party is the majority that all other parties should refuse to work with them? Or are you trying to say that one party rule should be the result of all elections? Seriously, you constantly complain about and demonize everything and everyone that doesn't fit into your far left worldview. But guess what, this is a democracy (republic really, but lets leave semantics out of this) and that means that there will always be other views besides your own that will be represented in the government. To completely write off someone because he had the nerve to actually work together with another party in a democracy is exactly the type of idealogical extremism one would expect from the far right teabaggers in the US.

Then again, maybe you would prefer a system of government which is always dominated by one party - in which case, disregard everything I just said.
18:23 December 11, 2012 by Englishted
@frankiep

If a party wins the majority then I completely agree that they have a mandate to rule and don't find that a problem .

If however I vote for a party's manifesto in the belief that they intend to keep to those promises (naive maybe) ,and then the do a complete u-turn and disappoint all their supporters then I do feel aggrieved.See how popular the Liberal party is in the U.K. for doing such a thing right now.

I believe in democracy and oppose one party states but for the above reasons which I don't consider wrong I think the S.P.D. in the groß coalition sold out it's principals to retain a scrape of power and I don't want that to happen again under his leadership or anyone else s.

p.s .

I don't understand two comments made by adversaries one of whom is simply contemptible anyway.
19:44 December 11, 2012 by frankiep
I understand what you're saying but I just don't see the logic in it for a second. This is just like saying that when things are going your way that it's best to just take your ball and go home rather than try to do what you can under the circumstances. Yes, principals are of course important, but part of being in a democracy is accepting the fact that are others with different principles. You can not say on one hand that you believe in democracy and then turn around and say that you want nothing to do with trying to work and compromise with other parties - that is not what democracy is. If you want a government where the people in power all meet the required level ideological purity, and where other ideas are no where to be found, then you are going to have to go to a place like China, North Korea, Cuba, etc.
16:35 December 12, 2012 by Englishted
@ frankiep,

On you last point first I would like a government that did not include so many people who were caught cheating in their exams and using a title to which they were not entitled that in any other walk of life would be fraud .

If we adopt your ideas of democracy then every party would be the same run by rich uncaring individuals who only want power and will do any deal to achieve it (oh thats now ) ,are you saying that if I vote on a promise to say end nuclear energy and when they get in power they build more plants because their new found friends in the coalition expect a compromise I should not be angry and just accept they don't have "the required level ideological purity " or as I would phrase it the have lied and I will not trust them again until I see a fundamental change .
Today's headlines
'Auschwitz bookkeeper' trial nears verdict
Oskar Groening, the 'bookkeeper of Auschwitz'. Photo: DPA

'Auschwitz bookkeeper' trial nears verdict

A former SS officer known as the "bookkeeper of Auschwitz" and a woman who survived the Nazi death camp delivered wrenching testimony in a courtroom on Wednesday as his historic trial neared a verdict. READ  

Assembly robot crushes worker at Volkswagen
A photo of a Volkswagen assembly line, not related to the incident. Photo: DPA.

Assembly robot crushes worker at Volkswagen

A worker was setting up a robot at a Volkswagen factory when the machine grabbed him and pressed him against a metal slab, causing lethal injuries. READ  

Greece crisis
Greek offer 'no basis for discussion': Schäuble
Pro-EU Greeks demonstrate outside the Athens parliament on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Greek offer 'no basis for discussion': Schäuble

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Wednesday crisis-hit Greece was sending mixed signals in debt talks and called on its government to "clarify its position" before negotiations with creditors can resume. READ  

Weathermen issue snow alert in heatwave
Could this be July in North Rhine-Westphalia? Photo: DPA

Weathermen issue snow alert in heatwave

The German Weather Service (DWD) issued a weather warning for North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) on Wednesday predicting 5 to 10 cm of snow and winds of up to 60 km/h. READ  

Analysis
How German media shaped the Greece crisis
Angela Merkel faces a battery of microphones and cameras at a eurozone summit in Brussels on June 22nd. Photo: DPA

How German media shaped the Greece crisis

It's often said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the one person who truly matters when it comes to how the eurozone deals with Greece. But how much freedom does 'Mutti' really have in the face of the public and the media? READ  

Women trade punches over neglected dog poo
'This is not a dog toilet.' Photo: DPA

Women trade punches over neglected dog poo

Bergisch Gladbach in North Rhine-Westphalia, hometown of supermodel Heide Klum, was once linked in Germans' minds with the catwalk. But now it is just as infamous for a dog walk, after two women came to blows over a mound of pooch poo. READ  

Referee costs Germany dear against USA
Head coach Silvia Neid (r) with Celia Sasic (l) on the bench. Photo: DPA

Referee costs Germany dear against USA

Germany coach Silvia Neid said she found the referee's decision-making 'sad' in her country's 2-0 semi-final defeat to the USA in the Women's World Cup in Montreal on early Wednesday morning. READ  

Train strikes
Train drivers and Bahn bury the hatchet
Three ICE (intercity) trains stand in a siding. Photo: DPA

Train drivers and Bahn bury the hatchet

The Train Drivers' Union (GDL) and Deutsche Bahn (DB) have finally agreed to end their dispute over drivers' work conditions, offering hope that nine months of rail chaos has finally come to an end. READ  

European heatwave
Keep cool and stay safe in the July heatwave
A couple leaping into an open-air pool in Freiburg. Photo: DPA

Keep cool and stay safe in the July heatwave

Here's how to keep cool as the mercury soars during this week's heatwave in Germany. And don't forget your pets! READ  

Former judge to see NSA target list
Photo: DPA

Former judge to see NSA target list

The Bundestag (German parliament) inquiry into spying by the US National Security Agency (NSA) has chosen a former judge to examine lists of targets given to German spies by the Americans. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
An eye for an eye? Mum protects child in playground with pepperspray
Politics
Follow our LIVE blog as Europe holds breath over Greece crisis
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's final day in Germany
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's second day in Germany
National
Queen Elizabeth II's first day in Germany - as it happened
National
Bus passengers tell fake racists where to get off
Politics
What's really in the Queen's handbag?
National
Germans say USA doesn't respect freedom
National
Yes, you CAN buy adult e-books before 10pm in Germany
VIDEO: Watch a 93-metre turbine crash to earth in slow motion
Gallery
Who's got a shot at the German Film Awards
Rhineland
Anger over 'child-free' beer garden
National
How do you do, Majestät?
National
Man defends right to pee in public with tear gas
Features
The Germans who won Waterloo for the British
Frankfurt
Should Germany ban circus animals?
Hamburg
Where people are having the most sex in Germany
Culture
Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Not this student...
National
Dresden's three-decade-long red light
Politics
Upper house calls for gay marriage now
Berlin
Berlin named 3rd-best city worldwide
Sport
In search of the toughest firefighter
Business & Money
German firms shine for European engineering students
Gallery
Hitler's paintings up for auction
National
German's 70-year search for murdered US pilot
Politics
What the G7 leaders agreed at Elmau
Business & Money
What really makes Germans happy
National
Playmobil builder leaves worldwide legacy
National
The car share that became a drug run
Politics
What Snowden revealed to Germany
Rhineland
Why wolf cubs are being raised by hand
National
Hitler's booze cave found
National
Environment makes Germany worth living in
Culture
What's top of the charts in June
Gallery
Germany's most beautiful cycle routes
Business & Money
The business case for Britain in the EU
Rhineland
Why farmers are free to pong up the countryside
National
German restaurants among world's best
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

6,946
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd