Nahles to tip gender balance in German politics

Ms Andrea Nahles speaking at the federal party convention of the SPD in Bonn last month. She is said to have invigorated her demoralised party with a lectern-thumping speech.
Ms Andrea Nahles speaking at the federal party convention of the SPD in Bonn last month. She is said to have invigorated her demoralised party with a lectern-thumping speech.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BERLIN • Germany's chaos-wracked Social Democrats have named Andrea Nahles as their designated next leader - meaning women will soon be in the driver's seats of the two biggest parties, and shifting a long-skewed gender balance in politics.

Alongside Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ms Nahles is set to join a growing band of women heading, or co-leading, German political parties despite the fact that female lawmakers still account for fewer than one third of seats in Parliament.

Dr Merkel has also pledged for the first time, following the lead of France and Canada, to place women in half of the Cabinet posts in her fourth-term government, likely to be launched in late March.

When Mr Martin Schulz, who resigned as head of the Social Democrats (SPD) last week, said he wanted to hand over the post to Ms Nahles, he declared that it was time, at last, "for a woman to lead the 153-year-old party".

Ms Nahles, 47, a former labour minister who once headed the SPD youth wing, has earned a reputation as hard-working, pragmatic and combative. She invigorated her demoralised party with a lectern-thumping speech last month, when the tabloid-style Bild daily paid her the questionable compliment of being "the only real guy" in her party.

Ms Nahles herself made headlines with unconventional language when she used a street brawler's phrase akin to "knocking someone's teeth in" after the election loss for what she then saw as the party's future role in opposition.

She recently told magazine Der Spiegel that female politicians tend to be criticised for ambition "while the boys are judged differently".

Ms Nahles was last Tuesday unanimously approved by the party leadership, but will have to wait till an April 22 party congress to take the top job, with Hamburg mayor Olaf Scholz in charge until then.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2018, with the headline 'Nahles to tip gender balance in German politics'. Print Edition | Subscribe