The Thuringian SPD wants to continue governing, but the poll numbers are bad. Therefore, there was a tough fight for list places at the party conference.

Interior Minister Georg Maier delivers his speech to the main candidate

In 2019 the SPD had 8 percent, next time it will probably be even stricter: Interior Minister Georg Maier at the party conference Photo: Bodo Schackow/dpa

ERFURT taz | At the beginning of the Thuringian SPD conference in Erfurt there were no signs of internal conflict. On Saturday, nearly 200 delegates drew up their list of candidates for the Sept. 1 state election. Due to the difficult situation, the Social Democrats seemed united. But the leftists of the party still criticize that they are left behind on the list. Is there a center-right turn in the Thuringian SPD?

Georg Maier was voted first on the list. The SPD chairman and Thuringian Interior Minister received 80.1 percent of the vote and was applauded. In his speech, Maier first addressed the difficult initial situation of the SPD. In the last state elections in 2019, the SPD won 8 percent and thus 8 seats in parliament. This means that Thuringia has the smallest SPD parliamentary group at state level. However, he governs in a minority with the left and the Greens. The coalition depends on the opposition for its legislative proposals.

Maier explained that the SPD's goal this time was to allow “a stable and democratic majority government.” Apart from the AfD, the party does not rule out any possibility of a coalition. But first she herself needs a good result. With optimism and cohesion a double-digit result for the SPD is possible, said Maier. Last time only 10,000 votes were missing. “And, of course, we want more.” Instead of applause, she initially received murmurs from the delegates.

In the polls, the left, the CDU and AfD currently share more than half of all votes. The Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance (BSW) also achieved double-digit approval ratings. In Thuringia there is little left for the traffic light federal government parties: the SPD, the Greens and the FDP. The SPD is currently performing best: it is between 6 and 9 percent.

Preparations for a coalition with the CDU?

The SPD decided its electoral program in December. Social Democrats are trying to convince voters with safety through more police, family treatment through free lunches in daycares and schools, and higher wages.

But who should be second on the list, behind Maier, was voted on at the party conference. The board of directors had appointed Cornelia Klisch. The doctor from Erfurt sits in the state parliament as a health politician for the SPD. Heike Taubert competed against her. Not only is she the current Finance Minister of Thuringia, but she was also the SPD's top candidate in 2014 and was previously part of the CDU-SPD coalition as Minister of Social Affairs. This year she is running directly against AfD leader Björn Höcke in her constituency. She did not want to settle for the 12th position that the board had assigned her and which offers little prospect of entering parliament.

But Taubert narrowly lost the second-place election with 93 to 98 votes. Of course, she would do everything possible to ensure a high electoral result for the SPD, she later told the taz. But Taubert also criticized: “As a minister for many years, I also have a lot of experience in coalition negotiations. Mr. Maier has decided not to allow me to be there at this time.”

left-wing party excluded

In addition to Taubert, current deputies Diana Lehmann and Denny Möller also failed in their candidacies for the top positions on the list. Both are considered leftist parties close to the unions and were disappointed. Cooperation with unions and the goal of strengthening collective bargaining to achieve higher wages are not evident in the list.

For Lehmann, this is “a very clear sign that the left of the party is being excluded.” She believes that this could also have consequences after the elections: “There are party leaders in the SPD who no longer want to work with the left.” The Greens and are open about it, she says. Better with the CDU. I would say the list prepares that.”

Georg Maier responded that the SPD had not based its list on the CDU or other parties. “If we repeat the result of 2019 and get ministerial positions, they will surely be in Parliament,” he emphasized. And the goal is to win even more votes.