Hannelore Kraft

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Hannelore Kraft
2017-05-04-WDR Wahlarena-1410.jpg
Hannelore Kraft
Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia
In office
14 July 2010 – 8 June 2017
Preceded by Jürgen Rüttgers
Succeeded by Armin Laschet
President of the German Bundesrat
In office
1 November 2010 – 31 October 2011
Preceded by Jens Böhrnsen
Succeeded by Horst Seehofer
Chairwoman of SPD North Rhine-Westphalia
In office
20 January 2007 – 14 May 2017
Preceded by Jochen Dieckmann
Vice Chairwoman of SPD
with Klaus Wowereit, Manuela Schwesig and Olaf Scholz
In office
13 November 2009 – 14 May 2017
Preceded by Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Peer Steinbrück
Minister for European Affairs of North Rhine-Westphalia
In office
24 April 2001 – 12 November 2002
Minister for Science and Research of North Rhine-Westphalia
In office
12 November 2002 – 31 May 2005
Member of the Landtag of North Rhine-Westphalia
Assumed office
2 June 2000
Personal details
Born Hannelore Külzhammer
(1961-06-12) June 12, 1961 (age 56)
Mülheim an der Ruhr, West Germany
Nationality German
Political party Social Democratic Party
Alma mater Comprehensive University of Duisburg
Website www.hannelore-kraft.de

Hannelore Kraft (née Külzhammer; born 12 June 1961) is a German politician. She is the former leader of the SPD North Rhine-Westphalia and the Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia. Kraft was the first woman to fill this post since it was created in 1946. She served on the SPD's federal executive from November 2009 until May 2017, and was one of the four federal deputy chairs.[1] Between 1 November 2010 and 31 October 2011 she was the 65th President of the German Bundesrat, again the first woman to hold the office.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

The daughter of a streetcar driver and a ticket collector,[3] Kraft graduated in 1980, and first trained as a bank clerk with Dresdner Bank. She commenced her studies in economics at Comprehensive University of Duisburg in 1982, and studied at King's College London in 1986 and 1987. She completed her studies in Duisburg in 1989.

Early career[edit]

From 1989 until 2001, Kraft was a consultant and project manager at the ZENIT GmbH ('Centre for Innovation and Technology') in Mülheim an der Ruhr, and was head of the local European Info Centre.

Political career[edit]

In 1994, Kraft joined the SPD. She was drawn to politics after becoming head of a works council and struggling to find a place for her son in a nursery.[4] At the North Rhine-Westphalia state election, 2000, she was elected to the Landtag of North Rhine-Westphalia. Initially representing electoral district 74 (Mülheim II-Essen VII), she switched to electoral district 64 (Mülheim I) for the election in 2005.

On 24 April 2001, she replaced Detlev Samland as Minister for Federal and European Affairs, and then under Minister-President Peer Steinbrück, served from 12 November 2002 until 31 May 2005 as Minister for Science and Research.

Kraft was a SPD delegate to the Federal Convention for the purpose of electing the President of Germany in 2004, 2009, 2010 and 2012.

Chairwoman of the SPD Parliamentary Group in North Rhine-Wesphalia, 2005-2010[edit]

After the SPD lost the 2005 state election in North Rhine-Westphalia, Kraft was elected leader of the SPD's parliamentary group with 95.7% of the votes, hence becoming the Opposition Leader in North Rhine-Westphalia. In 2007, she was elected chairperson of the SPD in Northrhine-Westphalia.

On 13 November 2009, Kraft was elected as one of the four vice chairs of the federal SPD under chairman Sigmar Gabriel, receiving the highest overall vote. A party congress in February 2010 affirmed that she was the SPD's candidate for Minister-President at the May 2010 state election.[5]

First term as Minister President, 2010-12[edit]

The state election on 9 May 2010 resulted in a near tie with the governing CDU at 67 seats, and with Kraft's preferred red-green coalition one seat short of an overall majority; at the time, the federal government under Chancellor Angela Merkel blamed the result on voter anger at the first aid package for Greece.[6]

After many parallel negotiations and various coalitions, Kraft was elected Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia on 14 July 2010 on the second ballot with a sufficient majority of votes, coming from the SPD and Alliance 90/The Greens, while the Left Party abstained. Kraft formed a minority government with ministers of Social Democrats and Greens.[7] It was the first time in Germany that a coalition has attempted to rule one of the 16 federal states without a proper majority,[8] with the only exception being a red–green alliance governing Berlin for some months in 2001/2002 without a majority. For nearly two years, Kraft ruled the state without a regular majority, pulling votes for each initiative from opposition parties on the right or the left.[9] Together with the deputy governor, Sylvia Löhrmann from the Green Party, Kraft dubbed her government the “invitation coalition.”[10]

After decades of ideological rivalry in the state over the structure of secondary schools, both Kraft and Löhrmann later succeeded in negotiating a cross-party agreement with the centre-right Christian Democratic Union that is to ensure peace until 2023.[11]

Kraft got attention for an eulogy she gave after a stampede killed 21 people at the Love Parade music festival in July 2010, less than two weeks after she became state premier. When she gave her speech at a memorial ceremony, she spoke of the hours she spent waiting to hear from her son, who was at the event, unsure if he was injured or unharmed, alive or dead.[12]

In October 2010, Kraft was elected President of the Bundesrat, according to the customary rotation of the presidency between the Bundesländer. She assumed office on 1 November 2010, becoming the first female office holder, remaining in office until 31 October 2011.

At an SPD convention in Berlin in December 2011, Kraft was confirmed in her vice-chairmanship by 97 percent of party members, the best result for a board member.[13]

Krafts failure to get her 2012 budget plans passed after a court ruled a supplementary budget for 2010 unconstitutional forced her to call an early election and left her exposed to charges of fiscal incompetence.[14] Kraft had hoped to win backing from the opposition FDP for the budget but their long-standing objections were not overcome in time for the vote.[15]

Second term as Minister President, 2012-present[edit]

The resulting election saw the SPD-Green coalition win a nine-seat majority and allowed Kraft to remain in office. Cabinet Kraft II is quite similar to Cabinet Kraft I.

Soon after the May 2012 elections, Kraft placed third in a Der Spiegel poll among German politicians right after Chancellor Angela Merkel and the new federal president, Joachim Gauck, and ahead of any other politician in the SPD including Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who lost to Merkel in 2009, and party chairman Sigmar Gabriel.[16][17] This vaulted Kraft into the top rank of German politicians, prompting speculation that she might be the strongest contender to lead the party against Merkel and potentially succeed her as chancellor.[18][19] However, she soon announced that she did not want to become the SPD's candidate for chancellor, preferring instead to stay in her home state for the five-year term she had just won.[20]

In 2013, Kraft initially opposed national SPD leaders who opted to join Merkel as junior partner for the second time.[21][22] However, she subsequently was part of the SPD team led by Sigmar Gabriel, which led the negotiations towards forming a new German government with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc.[23] She headed the SPD's delegation in the energy working group and vocally defended the coal industry, which has a sizeable presence in her state; her co-chair from the CDU/CSU was Peter Altmaier.[24]

In 2014, Kraft’s government plans record spending of 62 billion euros ($85 billion) while trimming the deficit by a quarter to 2.4 billion euros.[25] At the same time, she has repeatedly criticized Merkel’s austerity policies during the debt crisis.[26]

In March 2014, Kraft hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping in Duisburg as he visited the last stop on the Yuxinou Railway between Europe and Asia.[27]

Political positions[edit]


In 2012, Kraft placed investment in renewable energy at the center of her second term’s agenda. By 2025 there should be more than 30 per cent of electricity in NRW coming from renewable sources.[28] In 2013, Kraft called on Angela Merkel to use tax revenue to cut electricity costs for consumers by 25 percent.[29] On energy companies extracting oil and natural gas by the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, Kraft stated in 2014 that “[a]s long as I am governor in North Rhine-Westphalia, there will be no fracking for unconventional natural gas.”[30] She also helped get a resolution through the Bundesrat on tighter rules for fracking after visiting Canada to get a first-hand look at shale oil extraction there.[31]

Tax evasion[edit]

Early in her time in office, Kraft has focused on tax evasion, which is a policy that is not exclusively the reserve of the federal government and thus allowed to her to both exercise her power in her state as well as in the Bundesrat, the upper house of the federal parliament, where the states are presented and the opposition had a majority at the time.[32] In 2013, Kraft led the Bundesrat opposition to a tax agreement with Switzerland, eventually blocking it as too easy on tax dodgers.[33] Under the proposed law, Germans with untaxed wealth in Switzerland would have been able to legitimize their holdings and retain their anonymity in exchange for paying a one-off penalty charge and submitting to a future withholding tax.


In 2013, the heir of a prominent Jewish art dealer Alfred Flechtheim, who fled Nazi Germany, urged the state of North Rhine-Westphalia to relinquish paintings by Paul Klee and Juan Gris that he says were lost due to Nazi persecution; however, Kraft eventually declined to comment.[34] In 2014, Kraft rejected demands made by museum directors in North Rhine-Westphalia who sought to prevent the sale of two Andy Warhol paintings, Triple Elvis (1963) and Four Marlons (1966), by the former West LB at Christie's New York; in a letter in response to the museum directors, she held that she could not stop the sale because the paintings were not considered items of national cultural importance.[35]


In summer 2015, when Chancellor Angela Merkel allowed tens of thousands of asylum seekers camped out in Hungary to travel to Germany, Kraft asserted that this had sent a signal to thousands of migrants to head straight for Germany; at the time, North-Rhine Westphalia was taking in around a fifth of the new arrivals.[36]

Relations with France[edit]

Alongside Senator Catherine Troendle, Kraft serves as co-chairwoman of the German-French Friendship Group set up by the German Bundesrat and the French Senate.

With 2014 marking the centenary of the start of World War I, Kraft inaugurated a memorial for the Armistice Day in Ablain-Saint-Nazaire alongside French President François Hollande and German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, as well as British and Belgian officials.[37]

On 26 March 2015, Kraft joined Merkel, Hollande and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain at the crash site of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the Massif des Trois-Évêchés for a memorial; North Rhine-Westphalia was the state where the plane was headed and many of the 144 passengers lived. One day later, she and Germany's President Joachim Gauck attended a memorial service in the western town of Haltern for 16 students and two teachers from the local high school who were killed in the crash.

Other activities[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Kraft is married and has one son. She was formerly a Catholic but later converted to Protestantism, joining the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland, a member church of the Evangelical Church in Germany.[38]


  1. ^ spd.de, accessed 10 May 2010 (in German)
  2. ^ see de:Liste der Präsidenten des deutschen Bundesrates
  3. ^ Birgit Jennen (May 7, 2014), Rust-Belt Rebel Kraft Leads German Charge Against Merkel Bloomberg.
  4. ^ Noah Barkin and Madeline Chambers (September 18, 2013), German left keeps its own Merkel waiting in the wings Reuters.
  5. ^ SPD in NRW feiert ihre Spitzenkandidatin Kraft (SPD in NRW celebrates its top candidate Kraft), Die Welt (online edition), 26 February 2010 (in German)
  6. ^ Arne Delfs and Patrick Donahue (September 11, 2013), Germany’s Second-Most Powerful Woman Takes on Merkel Bloomberg.
  7. ^ "Kraft ist neue Ministerpräsidentin in NRW", Zeit Online, 07-2010. (in German)
  8. ^ Quentin Peel (September 26, 2011), Politics: Minority government confounds sceptics Financial Times.
  9. ^ Nicholas Kulish (May 11, 2012), In Germany’s Most Populous State, a Regional Leader Rises to Challenge Merkel New York Times.
  10. ^ Melissa Eddy (March 7, 2013), Women Finding Their Way in German Politics New York Times.
  11. ^ Quentin Peel (September 26, 2011), Politics: Minority government confounds sceptics Financial Times.
  12. ^ Nicholas Kulish (May 11, 2012), In Germany’s Most Populous State, a Regional Leader Rises to Challenge Merkel New York Times.
  13. ^ Arne Delfs and Patrick Donahue (September 11, 2013), Germany’s Second-Most Powerful Woman Takes on Merkel Bloomberg.
  14. ^ Stephen Brown and Madeline Chambers (May 14, 2012), Could heartland victory help Kraft to Berlin? Reuters.
  15. ^ German state faces snap election after gov't defeat Reuters, March 14, 2012.
  16. ^ Erik Kirschbaum (July 1, 2012), Rising star helps SPD gain on Merkel in German poll Reuters.
  17. ^ Delamaide, Darrell, "Merkel’s Dutch ally feels impact of backlash", MarketWatch, July 5, 2012. Kraft/SPD's strength was put in the context of Dutch Socialist Party leader Emile Roemer's simultaneously growing strength in opposition before September 2012 elections; of Socialist Francois Hollande's May 2012 victory in France; of Radical Left Alexis Tsipras' strength in spring 2012 Greek elections; and of 2013 German national elections. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
  18. ^ Nicholas Kulish (May 13, 2012), In Rebuke to Merkel’s Party, Social Democrats Win German Vote New York Times.
  19. ^ Melissa Eddy (March 7, 2013), Women Finding Their Way in German Politics New York Times.
  20. ^ Charles Hawley (September 27, 2012), Letter from Berlin: SPD Still Looking for a Leader to Challenge Merkel Spiegel Online.
  21. ^ Tony Czuczka and Rainer Buergin (September 25, 2013), Merkel Allies Hold Out on Coalition Talks in German Waiting Game Bloomberg.
  22. ^ Birgit Jennen (May 7, 2014), Rust-Belt Rebel Kraft Leads German Charge Against Merkel Bloomberg.
  23. ^ Quentin Peel (September 30, 2013), German coalition talks to start on Friday Financial Times.
  24. ^ Annika Breidthardt and Gernot Heller (October 26, 2013), Germany may see higher tax revenues, could play role in talks Reuters.
  25. ^ Birgit Jennen (May 7, 2014), Rust-Belt Rebel Kraft Leads German Charge Against Merkel Bloomberg.
  26. ^ Birgit Jennen (May 7, 2014), Rust-Belt Rebel Kraft Leads German Charge Against Merkel Bloomberg.
  27. ^ China-Europe route is new ‘silk road’ Taipei Times, March 31, 2014.
  28. ^ Quentin Peel (September 26, 2012), ‘Red-green’ victory makes waves in Berlin Financial Times.
  29. ^ Stefan Nicola (March 21, 2013), Merkel Taken On by Kraft as Power Costs Open Second Crisis Front Bloomberg.
  30. ^ Melissa Eddy and Stanley Reed (June 5, 2014), Germany Leans Toward Allowing Fracking New York Times.
  31. ^ Noah Barkin and Madeline Chambers (September 18, 2013), German left keeps its own Merkel waiting in the wings Reuters.
  32. ^ Arne Delfs and Patrick Donahue (September 11, 2013), Germany’s Second-Most Powerful Woman Takes on Merkel Bloomberg.
  33. ^ Arne Delfs and Patrick Donahue (September 11, 2013), Germany’s Second-Most Powerful Woman Takes on Merkel Bloomberg.
  34. ^ Catherine Hickley (January 29, 2013), Jewish Dealer Heir Urges Decision on Klee, Gris Artworks Bloomberg.
  35. ^ Henri Neuendorf (October 21, 2014), Is Germany Using Warhol Sale to Pay Off State Debt? artnet.
  36. ^ Caroline Copley (September 11, 2015), Merkel's critics grow louder as more refugees flood into Germany Reuters.
  37. ^ Natalie Muller (11 November 2014), Hollande, von der Leyen, Europe observe Armistice DayDeutsche Welle.
  38. ^ Dead link at Evangelische Kirche im Rheinland website. http://www.ekir.de/an-der-ruhr/kirchenkreis_52076.php (in German)

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Jürgen Rüttgers
Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia
2010 — Present
Succeeded by