Life balance in crisis mode: Horst Seehofer has been a professional politician for 41 years. Now, at almost 72, he is doing his last loop – isolated in the fortress-like Federal Ministry of the Interior.
Berlin – With the corona pictures from the intensive care units, memories come back. Horst Seehofer was 52 when he was knocked over by an inflammation of the heart muscle. “Until then, I had believed I could unhinge the world.” Instead, it unhooked him. “You are in the intensive care unit – helpless as a small worm. Completely passed out. And the doctors tell you: ‘There is no therapy. We hope that your body can do it. ‘”When Seehofer now takes part in the Corona cabinet in the Chancellery every Monday, he knows what he is talking about. For years he has been one of the most powerful men in the country. But he was also a worm once.
It has become a little quiet around Horst Seehofer. For a long time he dominated the evening headlines. Refugee crisis, upper limit, attacks on Angela Merkel. Some thought it was great, many were annoyed. No politician divided the country so much. And now? Seehofer will be 72 in July. Politics will end in autumn. The end of an incredibly long journey: in 1980 he moved into the Bundestag. There was still West and East. The capital was called Bonn, the candidates for chancellor were Helmut Schmidt and Franz Josef Strauss, the Greens won 1.5 percent.
Horst Seehofer in “forced withdrawal”: Which thing he is currently missing in particular
If you want to meet Seehofer today, you have to go to the Interior Ministry in Berlin. A huge building a stone’s throw from the Chancellery. Security gate, several revolving doors, over two inner courtyards. In the seemingly endless corridor on the 6th floor, state secretaries’ offices are lined up until you find yourself with the minister. Over 80,000 employees, 20 subordinate authorities, including the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Federal Criminal Police Office. Seehofer still has time for a long conversation. It is getting dark outside, later he has to extend the border controls. But that can wait.
It is one of the lessons the Ingolstadt native learned from his almost fatal illness. He was outside for almost a year. He announced on his return that he would take it easy in the future. That worked at best medium. Federal Minister of Agriculture, Prime Minister, Federal Minister of the Interior. There is no slowing down. But no matter how long the days are, Seehofer doesn’t let his appointments rush him. Even as prime minister he always had time to chat with the citizens. In Corona times, he doesn’t meet people. Something is missing. “My entire political life has been based on talking to people a lot. I miss that and it feels like forced withdrawal. “
Horst Seehofer acts beyond the public – “I’ve been avoiding panel discussions for ten years”
So he stays in the ministry. Terrorism. Clans. But also residential construction. And of course Corona. Seehofer mostly acts beyond the public. “At a time like this, politicians first and foremost belong at their workbench and not all the time in the television studio.” He rarely goes to talk shows himself. Once a year at Maischberger, once a year at the BR regulars’ table. No will, no Illner, no “hard but fair”. “I have been avoiding these roundtables for ten years now, where the same people always appear with the same arguments. And I’m still alive. “
In general, it’s a miracle that this Seehofer is still there. Despite his falling out with Markus Söder. Despite the anger with the party. Despite the arguments with Angela Merkel. Once a week, the eternal Horst can be chauffeured in the motorcade to the Chancellery for a one-to-one conversation. Travel time: one minute. The relationship is “completely uncomplicated” today. That he publicly duped her at the party congress? To forget. “There are no additions to Angela Merkel.”
And Söder? Bad subject. Still. Even if both sides are meticulous to avoid each other. Seehofer leaves the party completely to the successor. “I only go to the parliamentary group meeting and the regional group when there are items on the agenda.” In the regional group they grumble about this loner, but the reason is caution: “I want to prevent Markus Söder and I from being artificially opposed . As soon as I would speak up with a different opinion, it would be a huge story. We never talked about it, but it worked: we coexist well without overlapping. “
Bavarian Prime Minister? “Ilse Aigner could not withstand Söder’s fighting spirit”
But nothing is forgotten. “We managed to hand over the office decently, that was not always the case in German politics.” Seehofer had long tried to prevent the over-ambitious because he doubted his character aptitude. He would have liked to have had a wife as his successor. But Ilse Aigner did not stand up to Söder’s fighting spirit. He mobilized his troops. The Young Union. The parliamentary group. But not only. “In the run-up to the handover, there was a rumor that I was sick. A former Bavarian prime minister was particularly diligent, ”says Seehofer. In the end he resigned. His party sent him to the super ministry in Berlin. Apparently he was healthy enough for that. “The past three years in this big house show that there was nothing to do with the rumors.”
The truth is: Seehofer did not properly shape this office. At first there was excitement about Afghans deported on his birthday. Then it got quieter. The “Mr. Inner security ”, which the CSU would have liked to have, it did not become. Even the addition of “home” to the name of the house, which is extremely controversial in Berlin, was never brought to life. But it also gave hardly any cause for criticism – an exception in this federal government.
Seehofer communicates with Söder via SMS. Short and business. But last autumn he met Söder for a conversation. Breakfast at the Ministry. The first and to date only one-to-one meeting in three years. No retrospection, no bad words, but an offer: If Söder wanted to rejuvenate the cabinet, he would not stand in the way. Söder refused. “The offer was meant seriously,” says Seehofer.
Horst Seehofer as Prime Minister: “I was just the emergency doctor from the start”
He doesn’t have to prove anything anymore. “I feel more free and independent than seldom before.” But of course Seehofer is not as deeply relaxed as he is in the conversation. He never was! Today he no longer ignites so much, he looks back. Maybe soon both: when he finally turns his back on Berlin, he will write a book. About his party and his time in Munich, where he actually never wanted to go. He himself calls it a “forced transfer”. As a reminder: In 2007, Seehofer lost to Erwin Huber in the vote for the party chairmanship – also because an illegitimate child Seehofer became public shortly before. “A year later, Günther Beckstein and Erwin Huber got the worst election result ever with minus 17 percent. With Günther Beckstein alone, that would not have happened. . . ”Suddenly Seehofer, who had always referred to the state parliament as a“ regional league ”, was Prime Minister. “But from the beginning I was just the emergency doctor whom you called because there was no other way.”
Seehofer has a lot of material for his book. Economic crisis, Landesbank bankruptcy, resignations. And if you listen to him, you can even learn something for today. “When I thought in 2013 that it was halfway quiet, the relatives affair came in the state parliament – in the election year.” His recipe: consistent clarification, maximum transparency. Sounds almost like today. Against resistance, he forced the cabinet members concerned to repay any excess money they had received. “You can still win an election with such setbacks.” In 2013 it was even an absolute majority.
Horst Seehofer soon to retire – his wife brought the only luxury into marriage
To this day he shakes his head at these Raffkes. Seehofer, the son of a truck driver and a housewife, has become wealthy, if not rich, in 41 years of professional politics. That is not important to him. His wife has decided not to buy any more new suits, he says with a smile. He should apply the old ones. “I don’t need a yacht, a flight license or a super car.” The only luxury, the holiday home in Schamhaupten, was brought into the marriage by his wife. It is the house where she was born. “She would sell it too – but I feel very comfortable there.” He wants to retire there soon. “I’ve been in public for 50 years, that’s enough.” Can you believe that? Seehofer currently has the highest security level. When the conversation ends, the state secretaries are already waiting outside. Little house, book and melancholy have to wait.
But Corona gives him a foretaste of what a life without a company car and personal protection could look like when taking a walk: “With a mask, hardly anyone recognizes me. If I still have a bobble hat on, the camouflage is perfect. “
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