no woman, no cry

Scholz struggling to find perfect candidate for Bundesbank board

bundesbank board woman
Three criteria, no candidates. Source: DPA

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz has a problem. The politician, a member of the center-left Social Democrats, has to appoint a replacement for Bundesbank board member Carl-Ludwig Thiele. Mr. Thiele’s seat has been empty since his term expired April 30, and Mr. Scholz wants to appoint a woman with financial policy acumen who is also an SPD insider.

It’s easier said than done: Mr. Scholz has a list of three promising candidates, but none is a perfect fit. Isabel Schnabel tops the list. Ms. Schnabel is a member of the federal government’s prestigious German Council of Economic Experts, known informally and archaically as the Five Economic Wise Men, but she is considered too far right for the SPD. The same applies to the second name on the list, Gertrud Traud. Ms. Traud is the chief economist of government wholesale bank Helaba.

The final candidate, Doris Ahnen, is a lifetime SPD politician but lacks the financial depth required to guide German financial policy — despite having served as finance minister of Rhineland-Palatinate since 2014. “They’re going to have to let go of one of the criteria,” an insider said, and the Bundesbank hopes the SPD won’t skimp on financial expertise.

It’s not the first time the SPD has faced this dilemma. Earlier this year, the Five Economic Wise Men were just four for about a month as the party blocked the re-appointment of Volker Wieland in hopes of replacing him with another woman to join Ms. Schnabel. They ultimately caved on the gender requirement and re-appointed Mr. Wieland.

The SPD is not only trying to please party members who’d like to see more gender equality, they’re also responding to a new law that requires gender parity on federal committees. Although it looks like the SPD may fail twice within just a few months in its quest, it may get some help from attrition — sort of.

Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann is currently seen as the most likely candidate to replace Mario Draghi atop the European Central Bank when the Italian’s term expires in October 2019. Germany’s current member on the ECB’s executive council, Sabine Lautenschläger, then would be without a job. Ms. Lautenschläger, a former Bundesbank vice president, is considered the most likely candidate to replace Mr. Weidmann at the Bundesbank. And if Ms. Lautenschläger doesn’t accept the post, the second pick is current Vice President Claudia Buch.

But Mr. Scholz would still have the same problem with his board nomination: Neither is seen as an SPD ally.

Andrew Bulkeley adapted this article into English for Handelsblatt Global. Martin Greive and Jan Hildebrand are political correspondents for Handelsblatt based in Berlin. Yasmin Osman is a financial editor with Handelsblatt’s banking team in Frankfurt. To contact the authors: greive@handelsblatt.com, osman@handelsblatt.com and hildebrand@handelsblatt.com

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