Candidate assessment: Peer Steinbrück would be an acceptable centre-left candidate for European elites by Peter Wahl

imfboss has invited candidate assessments from civil society voices in the home countries of the candidates to head the IMF. Throughout the process we will be posting these here for your benefit.

By Peter Wahl, World Economy Ecology and Development (WEED), Berlin, Germany

Peer Steinbrück was minister of finance under Chancellor Angela Merkel from 2005 until 2009 in the coalition of the Christian Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). He has studied economics and sociology and made a typical party career in the SPD working as an assistant of several social democratic ministers, for instance in the ministries for construction, for environment and for technology. In 2005 he was running as candidate for the presidency in the federal state of North-Rhine Westphalia, which by population is the biggest state in the German federation. But he was beaten with the worst result for his party since the end of the war.

Steinbrück belongs to the right wing of the SPD and represents a kind of “New Labour” policies. In the first years as finance minister he strongly supported further deregulation and liberalization of financial markets with the argument, that German competitiveness on global financial markets would have to be strengthened. However, before the Heiligendamm G8, he tried to advocate more transparency for hedge funds, but did not succeed and gave up, accepting the arguments of the UK and the US.

Like Weber, Steinbrück did not understand the financial system. Until September 2008, he believed that the crisis was only a problem of the US. After the collapse of Lehman, he radically changed his rhetoric. For instance he said: “Capitalism, as we have witnessed here with all its greed, is eating itself up at the end. … Generally one must admit, that certain elements of Marxist theory are not that wrong.

Steinbrück played a leading role in bailing out German banks and for the stimulus packages. Before the elections in September 2009 he suggested the implementation of a financial transaction tax. In order to avoid that the tax becomes an issue in the electoral campaign, Merkel joined some days later the proposal.

Steinbrück is, like Dominique Strauss-Kahn, not only a social democrat, but also a good communicator. As an experienced politician, he would be able to manage and represent the IMF. As finance minister he also has accepted the increase in the development budget. He is flexible and open for the interests of developing and emerging countries. If one would accept a European candidate at all, and a German one six years after Köhler, Steinbrück would be a suitable proposal for the European elites.

However, recently he has flagged interest in being the SPD candidate for Chancellor in the 2013 elections. It is not sure, whether his party will accept. The SPD is in a historic crisis after the experiment with New Labour strategies and is trying to regain a more social profile. Steinbrück does not at all stand for this. But independently from that, Merkel will in no case propose him for the IMF, because this would mean to provide a potential rival with an internationally very prestigious post.

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