The 68-year-old former head of the centre-left party, veteran minister of the SPD-Green coalitions and vice chancellor to Angela Merkel, stepped down from nearly all his political work last year to tend to his terminally ill wife.
She died at the end of July, and he is now expected to return to politics in September – to a party struggling with a distracted and split leadership, terrible poll figures and yearning for a charismatic leader.
A potential return to the top echelons of the party would be welcomed by many who feel current leader Kurt Beck is currently on track to lead it to electoral defeat next year.
A bid to become the SPD chancellor candidate would come up against the increasingly popular Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who the Rheinische Post reports is working on a keynote speech focusing on domestic issues to broaden his leadership claim.
Even if he does not go for the top job, Müntefering's return to full-time politics will be welcomed by his party. “Someone with the experience and service of Franz Müntefering is obviously always missed,” Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said last week.
But he also said the question of who would be chancellor candidate was less important than the positioning and manifesto of that candidate.