Desperate to halt their recent popularity freefall, members of the Germany's Social Democratic Party are hoping for a political comeback by their popular former deputy chancellor Franz Muentefering.
Muentefering could help unite the SPD
It's been a tough year for the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which has seen its approval rating hover at around 22 percent. Muenterfering, for many a beloved elder statesman known for his folksy style, has been alarmed as he's watched the slide from the sidelines.
Muentefering is reportedly so concerned by his party's direction that he announced his comeback nine months after stepping down as deputy chancellor and employment minister, according to an article published in the Rheinische Post on Sunday, Aug. 17. An SPD spokesman would not comment immediately on the newspaper report.
Muentefering left politics in November 2007, to spend time with his wife, Ankepetra, who died of cancer last month. He has not publicly commented on his future political plans.
A moderate voice
Muentefering is known as a centrist who maintained a good working relationship with political rival Chancellor Angela Merkel. He was seen as a key figure in holding together the "grand coalition" made up of Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union with the SPD as a junior partner.
The SPD doesn't want to remain a junior partner in the ruling coalition
Moderate and conservative factions of the SPD, which have felt sidelined in recent months as the party has shifted leftwards, welcomed Muentefering's return.
"[Muentefering] is an integration figure for the party and for many voters he is simply indispensible," SPD politician Johannes Kahrs said.
The CDU's Christian Wulff said he would "greatly welcome" Muentefering's return to party leadership, citing the elder statesman's political acumen as an asset to the coalition.
Not everyone loves him
While Muentefering will reportedly return to parliament starting in September, it remains unclear whether he will also resume a leadership role within the SPD.
Left-leaning SPD members do not want Muentefering to come back. They are pushing for the 68-year-old Muentefering to take up the post as head of the party's Friedrich Ebert Foundation. The influential political organization has branch offices in more than 90 countries. The post would also be a way to keep Muentefering from re-entering the daily political fray.
Merkel and Muentefering had a good working relationship
It's unknown whether Muentefering wants to be considered as a chancellor candidate to run against Merkel next year. SPD head Kurt Beck, who has been responsible for the party's recent move to the left, said he is respecting Muentefering's mourning period for his wife.
"We have contact with one another and we will speak with one another about these questions," Beck told the AP news agency on Monday.