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Franz Müntefering
Franz Müntefering Bamberg 9151733.jpg
Leader of the Social Democratic Party
In office
18 October 2008 – 13 November 2009
General Secretary Hubertus Heil
Preceded by Kurt Beck
Succeeded by Sigmar Gabriel
In office
21 March 2004 – 16 November 2005
General Secretary Klaus Uwe Benneter
Preceded by Gerhard Schröder
Succeeded by Matthias Platzeck
Vice-Chancellor of Germany
In office
22 November 2005 – 21 November 2007
President Horst Köhler
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Preceded by Joschka Fischer
Succeeded by Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
In office
22 November 2005 – 21 November 2007
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Preceded by Wolfgang Clement
Succeeded by Olaf Scholz
General Secretary of the Social Democratic Party
In office
7 December 1999 – 20 October 2002
Leader Gerhard Schröder
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Olaf Scholz
Managing Director of the Social Democratic Party
In office
6 September 1999 – 13 December 1999
Leader Gerhard Schröder
Preceded by Ottmar Schreiner
Succeeded by Matthias Machnig
In office
16 October 1995 – 2 November 1998
Leader Oskar Lafontaine
Preceded by Günter Verheugen
Succeeded by Ottmar Schreiner
Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs
In office
27 October 1998 – 29 September 1999
Chancellor Gerhard Schröder
Preceded by Eduard Oswald
Succeeded by Reinhard Klimmt
Personal details
Born (1940-01-16) 16 January 1940 (age 84)
Neheim, Free State of Prussia
Political party Social Democratic
Spouses Renate
(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 service 1961–1961
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

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

Political career

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.

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.

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

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

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. 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

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". 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. 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.

Chairman of the SPD, 2008–2009

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. On 7 September 2008, Kurt Beck had resigned as SPD Chairman.

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

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. 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

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

  • German Foundation for Active Citizenship and Volunteering (DSEE), Member of the Board of Trustees (since 2020)
  • Berlin Demography Forum, chairman of the Advisory Board
  • Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), Member
  • Witten/Herdecke University, Member of the Board of Trustees (since 2014)
  • Herbert and Greta Wehner Foundation, Member of the Board (since 2002)
  • Deutsche Hospiz- und PalliativStiftung, Member of the Board of Trustees
  • German National Association of Senior Citizens' Organizations (BAGSO), chairman since 2015

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

See also

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