Politics as a profession? That isn’t a good idea for the long-term, said Daniel Bahr in a 2010 interview. At the time, his political career was going brilliantly. He had just been elected regional chairman of the Free Democrats in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. More than a few members of the FDP saw him as a ray of hope for the party in crisis that has seen its reputation and voters dwindle.
In 2009, with Daniel Bahr, Christian Lindner, general secretary of the party, and then-federal Health Minister Philipp Rösler at the helm, the FDP was finally able to present itself as it wanted to: young and fresh. But the FDP boygroup did not deliver. Mr. Bahr was able to rise to federal health minister in the CDU-FDP coalition, but the approval ratings for the party remained in the toilet during the boygroup’s reign.
The FDP finally lost their seats in the federal elections in 2013 – for the first time in the party’s history. In the aftermath, Mr. Bahr went to the United States for a few months, where he advised officials in Washington on their healthcare reform. At the beginning of this week, the 37-year-old annonced that he was leaving politics. As of November, Mr. Bahr will be employed as a manager for the private health insurance company Allianz Private Krankenversicherung (APKV), its parent company Allianz announced.
After an initial adjustment period, Mr. Bahr is expected to be appointed to the subsidiary’s management board. Markus Riess, chairman of the Allianz management board, said that as a “proven health expert,” Mr. Bahr would advance APKV’s business. Mr. Bahr knows the business well: Between 2005 and 2009, he was the spokesman for the FDP parliamentary faction on health issues, and always made a strong case for private health insurance.
“Mixing ministerial posts with business threatens democracy.”
Because Philipp Rösler has already stepped out of politics and joined the World Economic Forum, the only member of the former boygroup still in politics is FDP Chairman Christian Lindner. Mr. Bahr’s departure is untimely for him. In July, the move of former development minister and FDP politician Dirk Niebel to the defense and automotive company Rheinmetall created headlines. “Mixing ministerial posts with business threatens democracy,” said Green Party veteran Jürgen Trittin.
Mr. Bahr’s move to the Munich-based company also provoked immediate protests. The organization LobbyControl called on the federal government to create legal waiting periods for politicians hoping to jump into private industry jobs, according to the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel. And Christian Bäumler, vice-president of the CDU organization Christian Democractic Workforce, demanded consequences. “It is politically intolerable that a politician switches to the sector he regulated,” he told Handelsblatt. “This destroys the people’s faith in the integrity of politics.”
Mr. Bahr seems to have anticipated that his move would not solely be met with approval. As a precaution, he already went on the defensive on Monday. “My desk is in Munich; my task is to assume responsibility for the company and not to influence political decisions,” he told the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, trying to appease critics. The waiting period between the time he left government and took this job was “sufficient,” he said. It remains questionable if Mr. Lindner sees it that way, too.
Johannes Bockenheimer is a freelance correspondet for Handelsblatt in Berlin. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org