Franz Müntefering

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Franz Müntefering
Leader of the Social Democratic Party
In office
18 October 2008 – 13 November 2009
General SecretaryHubertus Heil
Preceded byKurt Beck
Succeeded bySigmar Gabriel
In office
21 March 2004 – 16 November 2005
General SecretaryKlaus Uwe Benneter
Preceded byGerhard Schröder
Succeeded byMatthias Platzeck
Vice-Chancellor of Germany
In office
22 November 2005 – 21 November 2007
PresidentHorst Köhler
ChancellorAngela Merkel
Preceded byJoschka Fischer
Succeeded byFrank-Walter Steinmeier
Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
In office
22 November 2005 – 21 November 2007
ChancellorAngela Merkel
Preceded byWolfgang Clement
Succeeded byOlaf Scholz
General Secretary of the Social Democratic Party
In office
7 December 1999 – 20 October 2002
LeaderGerhard Schröder
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byOlaf Scholz
Managing Director of the Social Democratic Party
In office
6 September 1999 – 13 December 1999
LeaderGerhard Schröder
Preceded byOttmar Schreiner
Succeeded byMatthias Machnig
In office
16 October 1995 – 2 November 1998
LeaderOskar Lafontaine
Preceded byGünter Verheugen
Succeeded byOttmar Schreiner
Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs
In office
27 October 1998 – 29 September 1999
ChancellorGerhard Schröder
Preceded byEduard Oswald
Succeeded byReinhard Klimmt
Personal details
Born (1940-01-16) 16 January 1940 (age 83)
Neheim, Free State of Prussia
Political partySocial Democratic
(m. 1960s; div. 1990s)
Ankepetra Rettich
(m. 1995; died 2008)

Michelle Schumann
(m. 2009)
  • Industrial manager
  • politician
Military service
Allegiance Germany
Branch/service Bundeswehr
Years of service1961–1961
Unit German Army (Heer) /
Mechanized infantry (Panzergrenadiertruppe)

Franz Müntefering (German: [ˈmʏntəˌfeːʁɪŋ] ; born 16 January 1940) is a German politician. He was Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) from 2004 to 2005 and again from 18 October 2008 to 13 November 2009. He served as the minister of Labour and Social Affairs, as well as the vice-chancellor of Germany, in the cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel from 2005 to 2007.

Early life and education[edit]

Müntefering was born in Neheim (now part of Arnsberg). He trained as an industrial salesman and worked for local metalwork companies.[1]

Political career[edit]

Müntefering joined the SPD in 1966. He was a member of the Bundestag from 1975 to 1992 and again since 1998.

From 1992 until 1995, Müntefering served as State Minister of Labor, Health and Social Affairs in the government of Minister-President Johannes Rau of North Rhine-Westphalia. He was a member of the State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia 1995 to 1998.

Müntefering was Bundesgeschäftsführer (executive director) of the national SPD from 1995 to 1998. In this capacity, he managed the 1998 campaign that returned the SPD to power in the federal government after 16 years in opposition.[2]

From 1998 until 1999, Müntefering briefly held the post of Minister of Transportation and Construction in the first cabinet of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. In this capacity, he organized the government's move from Bonn to Berlin.[3]

Müntefering was the first to hold the new post of SPD Secretary General from 1999 to 2002, and thereafter became leader of the SPD parliamentary group in the Bundestag.

Chairman of the SPD, 2004–2005[edit]

In June 2004 Müntefering was designated to succeed Schröder as party chairman in July 2004.[4]

Following Schröder's defeat in the close 2005 elections, Müntefering helped form a grand coalition under the new Chancellor Angela Merkel and her center-right CDU/CSU parties.[5] During the coalition talks, on 31 October 2005, Müntefering's favoured candidate for Secretary General of the SPD, Kajo Wasserhövel, was defeated by the left-wing candidate Andrea Nahles in a preliminary internal election. Müntefering subsequently announced his intention to resign as SPD Chairman, and was succeeded by Matthias Platzeck at the next party convention on 15 November 2005.

Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, 2005–2007[edit]

Müntefering became Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs and Vice-Chancellor in the cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel on 22 November 2005. During his time in office, the government agreed to raise the retirement age in steps to 67 from 65 by 2029.

After two years in those posts, Müntefering's spokesman said on 13 November 2007 that Müntefering would resign from them later in the month. The decision was said to be based on "purely familial reasons".[6] Later in the day, Müntefering said that he would leave his positions in the government on 21 November attributing his decision to the illness of his wife, Ankepetra, who was suffering from cancer.[7] Upon leaving office on 21 November 2007, he was replaced as Vice-Chancellor by Frank-Walter Steinmeier and as Minister of Labor by Olaf Scholz, both of whom are also members of the SPD.[8]

Chairman of the SPD, 2008–2009[edit]

Müntefering's wife Ankepetra died on 31 July 2008. Following her death, Müntefering decided to return to active politics and was elected Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany on 18 October 2008.[9] On 7 September 2008, Kurt Beck had resigned as SPD Chairman.[9][10]

Following the SPD's defeat in the federal election of 2009, Müntefering resigned from the position of party chairman of the Social Democratic Party.

Political positions[edit]

In April 2005, Müntefering criticized the market economy of Germany and proposed more state involvement to promote economic justice. In this speech, he described private equity firms as "locusts". He subsequently published a "locust list" of companies, which he circulated within the SPD.[11] This began a debate which dominated the national news, being the subject of front-page articles and covered on the main television news broadcasts nearly every day. Müntefering's suggestions were criticized by employers and many economists, but met with popular support (up to 75% in some opinion polls). The word has since found its way into German language as an established term for shady financial business practices.

Life after politics[edit]

Since leaving active politics, Müntefering has held a variety of honorary positions, including the following:

Müntefering was a SPD delegate to the Federal Convention for the purpose of electing the President of Germany in 2017.[17]


In 2002, news surfaced that, while Müntefering was head of the SPD in the North Rhine-Westphalia during the 1990s, local officials in the city of Cologne and possibly elsewhere allegedly engaged in corruption that involved illegal political donations from builders of waste-disposal facilities. Müntefering denied any knowledge of the anonymous donations and launched an internal investigation into all contracts awarded for the construction of waste-disposal facilities in North Rhine-Westphalia in the 1990s. On 22 March, he testified about the affair before Parliament's investigative committee.[2]


  1. ^ Franz Müntefering Financial Times, 9 September 2008.
  2. ^ a b William Boston (22 March 2002) Schroeder's Campaign Manager Testifies in SPD Finance Scandal Wall Street Journal.
  3. ^ Roger Cohen (24 August 1999) Schroder Moves, and So Does Germany's Center of Gravity New York Times.
  4. ^ Udo Kempf/ Hans-Georg Merz (eds.): Kanzler und Minister 1998-2005. Biographisches Lexikon der deutschen Bundesregierungen. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2008, p. 243.
  5. ^ Nicholas Kulish and Judy Dempsey (14 November 2007) German Official Resigns in Blow to Coalition New York Times.
  6. ^ "German Labor Minister Müntefering to Resign", Deutsche Welle, 13 November 2007.
  7. ^ Andreas Cremer and Brian Parkin, "Muentefering, Vice-Chancellor Under Merkel, Quits",, 13 November 2007.
  8. ^ "Merkel defends record as Germany's tense governing coalition hits 2-year mark", Associated Press (International Herald Tribune), 21 November 2007.
  9. ^ a b Judy Dempsey, "German foreign minister picked to challenge Merkel", International Herald Tribune, 7 September 2008.
  10. ^ "German SPD party reshuffles leadership, with eye on election", Xinhua, 7 September 2008.
  11. ^,1518,354733,00.html[dead link]
  12. ^ Board of Trusteees German Foundation for Active Citizenship and Volunteering (DSEE).
  13. ^ Members Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES).
  14. ^ Franz Müntefering neu im Kuratorium der Universität Witten/Herdecke Witten/Herdecke University, press release of 14 November 2014
  15. ^ Board of Trustees Deutsche Hospiz- und PalliativStiftung.
  16. ^ "Mitglieder des geschäftsführenden BAGSO-Vorstands". Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  17. ^ Wahl der Mitglieder für die 16. Bundesversammlung Landtag of North Rhine-Westphalia, decision of 14 December 2016.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded byas German Minister of Transport German Minister of Transport, Building and Housing
Succeeded by
Preceded byas German Minister of Regional Planning, Building and Urban Development
Preceded byas German Minister for Economics and Labour German Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
Succeeded by
Preceded by Vice-Chancellor of Germany
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by
General Secretary of the Social Democratic Party of Germany
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany
Succeeded by