Lower Saxony’s Minister of the Interior Boris Pistorius (SPD) is to become Federal Defense Minister. With this surprising decision on Tuesday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz ended speculation that had lasted for days about who could become Christine Lambrecht’s (SPD) successor. Pistorius is “an extremely experienced politician who has been tried and tested in administration and has been dealing with security policy for years,” said Scholz. With “his competence, his assertiveness and his big heart” he is exactly the right person to lead the Bundeswehr through the turning point.
On Friday evening it became known that Lambrecht wanted to resign. According to his spokesman, Scholz “consulted closely” with the party and parliamentary group leadership of the SPD on who should replace the minister. Among others, SPD leader Lars Klingbeil, Labor Minister Hubertus Heil, Chancellery Minister Wolfgang Schmidt and the military commissioner Eva Högl (all SPD) were in conversation.
Pistorius is 62 years old. He has been Minister of the Interior since 2013, before that he was Lord Mayor of Osnabrück for almost seven years. At an appearance in Hanover, he said the chancellor had asked him on Monday whether he wanted to take over the office. That came as a surprise to him too. But he didn’t have to think long because it was an honorable task that he didn’t want to evade. He wanted “the armed forces make us strong”. And he promises the soldiers that he will stand in front of them whenever necessary.
Scholz said he was convinced that Pistorius was someone “who can work with the troops and who the soldiers will like very much”. On Thursday, Pistorius is to receive his certificate of appointment from the Federal President and take his oath of office in the Bundestag.
With his decision for Pistorius, the Chancellor is moving away from a commitment. Before the general election, he had promised that a cabinet he led would be “staffed at least half by women.” This is no longer the case. Katharina Dröge, leader of the Greens parliamentary group, praised Pistorius on Tuesday as a man with “a lot of experience” who has “a lot of competence”. But she also said that the Greens “continue to take it for granted that we give at least half of the management positions to women”. CSU boss Markus Söder tweeted: “The issue of parity is probably over for the SPD, Greens and FDP.”
CDU leader Friedrich Merz said Pistorius does not come from the defense policy, he will first have to familiarize himself with it. But he has “experience in leading a ministry, if only in state politics”. The Union gives him “no advance, but we don’t just accompany it with criticism”. One hopes that, unlike its failed predecessor, it will succeed. That’s why he “gets neither attitude grades nor any criticism of the person today”. Union parliamentary group vice-president Johann Wadephul complained, however, that Pistorius was only “a cast from the B team”, with which the chancellor had failed to come up with a good surprise.