Franz Müntefering

Last updated
Franz Müntefering
Leader of the Social Democratic Party
In office
18 October 2008 13 November 2009
Preceded by Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Acting)
Succeeded by Sigmar Gabriel
In office
21 March 2004 15 March 2005
Preceded by Gerhard Schröder
Succeeded by Matthias Platzeck
Vice Chancellor of Germany
In office
22 November 2005 21 November 2007
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Preceded by Joschka Fischer
Succeeded by Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Federal 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
Federal 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 78)
Neheim, Germany
Nationality German
Political party SPD
Relations Michelle Müntefering
Occupation Industrial manager, politician

Franz Müntefering (German: [ˈmʏntəˌfeːʁɪŋ]  (   listen ); born 16 January 1940) is a German politician and industrial manager. 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 Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, as well as Vice-Chancellor, 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. [1]

Political career

Müntefering joined the SPD in 1966. He was a member of the Bundestag from 1975 to 1992 and again since 1998; from 1995 to 1998 he was a member of the Landtag (state parliament) of North Rhine-Westphalia.

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. In February 2004 he was designated to succeed Schröder as party chairman in March 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.

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]

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 resigned as SPD Chairman, and Müntefering succeeded Beck in that post. [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

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).

Life after politics

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. [15]


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 March 22, he testified about the affair before Parliament's investigative committee. [2]


  1. Franz Müntefering Financial Times , September 9, 2008.
  2. 1 2 William Boston (March 22, 2002) Schroeder's Campaign Manager Testifies in SPD Finance Scandal Wall Street Journal .
  3. Roger Cohen (August 24, 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 (November 14, 2007) German Official Resigns in Blow to Coalition New York Times .
  6. "German Labor Minister Müntefering to Resign", Deutsche Welle, November 13, 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. 1 2 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.
  12. Members Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES).
  13. Franz Müntefering neu im Kuratorium der Universität Witten/Herdecke Witten/Herdecke University, press release of November 14, 2014
  14. Board of Trustees Deutsche Hospiz- und PalliativStiftung.
  15. Wahl der Mitglieder für die 16. Bundesversammlung Landtag of North Rhine-Westphalia, decision of 14 December 2016.
Political offices
Preceded by
Matthias Wissmann
as German Minister of Transport
German Minister of Transport, Building and Housing
Succeeded by
Reinhard Klimmt
Preceded by
Eduard Oswald
as German Minister of Regional Planning, Building and Urban Development
Preceded by
Wolfgang Clement
as German Minister for Economics and Labour
German Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
Succeeded by
Olaf Scholz
Preceded by
Joschka Fischer
Vice Chancellor of Germany
Succeeded by
Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Party political offices
Preceded by
General Secretary of the Social Democratic Party of Germany
Succeeded by
Olaf Scholz
Preceded by
Gerhard Schröder
Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany
Succeeded by
Matthias Platzeck
Preceded by
Kurt Beck
Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany
Succeeded by
Sigmar Gabriel