On February 23, the election for citizenship – the city's parliament – is in Hamburg. The Greens are almost as strong in polls as the SPD. Who should rule the Hanseatic city in the future? Former First Mayor Ole von Beust has a clear opinion.
ZEIT ONLINE: Mr. von Beust, you now live in Berlin and Hamburg and commute several times a month. How do you know immediately that you are in Hamburg?
Ole von Beust: Hamburg is quieter, more relaxed and somehow well-maintained than Berlin. I usually get off at the Dammtor train station. When you come from Berlin, you have the feeling that you have ended up in a health resort.
ZEIT ONLINE: What is the difference between Hamburg and Berlin?
From Beust: Hamburg is better organized and more polite to deal with. On the other hand, it is very retracted. Berlin is loud and shrill. It is an eerie movement and dynamic in the city. You see something new every day. I think that the two cities complement each other wonderfully.
ZEIT ONLINE: Is there a saying that only hamburgers understand?
From Beust: The reaction is symptomatic in conflict situations. The Berliner says: I can't do anything. So fight, come here! And the hamburger says: You can all me once. According to the motto: lick my ass. The water comes, the water goes again. I don't feel like getting upset.
ZEIT ONLINE: How do you have to address Hamburg as a politician?
From Beust: The majority like calm and serenity. It mustn't be too screaming. In general, people are skeptical about politicians' cocky promises. But the Hamburgers are even more skeptical.
ZEIT ONLINE: Which politicians are successful here? Helmut Schmidt, Ole von Beust, Olaf Scholz – do they have something in common, despite all the differences in content?
From Beust: Probably all of them are more introverted types. For example, Helmut Schmidt was a brilliant speaker, no question. But when you spoke to him directly, he was thoughtful, analytical, and self-absorbed. Not the one who had a panacea for everything and loudly postulated solutions. Hamburgers have a certain introvert.
ZEIT ONLINE: The Rampensau type has no chance here.
From Beust: No, that doesn't go well with Hamburg's nature. That's just not how people are here. Serenity, objectivity, fairness play a major role here.
ZEIT ONLINE: Can you explain why Hamburg has such a soft spot for left-wing citizens? From the outside, this seems contradictory: wealthy population, bourgeois face, but left-wing election results. How does that fit together?
From Beust: On the one hand, this is typical of large cities. You also have many green and left-wing voters in Cologne or Munich. On the other hand, Hamburg has historically always lived from a compromise between ordinary people and the middle class. The development of the city is strongly shaped by foreign trade and port. The Social Democrats were always successful here if they had a high level of competence and proximity to the economy.
ZEIT ONLINE: Is the Hamburg SPD different from the rest of the country? More pragmatic, right?
From Beust: Nice. But you shouldn't be wrong either. The Hamburg SPD likes to pretend that it has nothing to do with the federal SPD at all. But of course they have the same chairmen and the same program, even if they try to differentiate themselves from it.
"With CDU pure you won't get far here"
ZEIT ONLINE: You yourself were one of the few to do so with the CDU to power. How must the CDU act in this city? As a better SPD?
From Beust: The fact that it worked at that time was also fortunate. Back then, red-green had problems in the area of internal security. There was an open drug scene and high crime in the middle of the city. In addition, the SPD was pretty left-wing at the time. She had made Ortwin Runde, the left's front man, First Mayor. All of this brought a sheer chance for the other parties. We also benefited from having long-term planning. And I myself from my rather social-liberal profile in the CDU. We have done a lot in the area of social and family policy. I think the CDU is only successful in big cities with a more socially liberal character. With pure CDU or purely conservative orientation you won't get far.
ZEIT ONLINE: You don't make yourself popular in the federal party.
From Beust: Because of our drug policy that the state gives heroin to severely dependent people, I had huge problems with the federal CDU. Our stance on the question of whether childcare should also be extended to toddlers completely contradicted the CDU worldview. Today there are other things, for example in traffic policy, where a metropolitan CDU should take different positions than in the area.
ZEIT ONLINE: From 2001 to 2003 you coalitioned with right-wing populist Roland Schill. Would that also work with the Hamburg AfD today?
From Beust: You can't compare that. Schill was a right-wing populist. But he was not a Nazi. Unlike the AfD, which plays with Nazi issues and trivialization of the Third Reich. Right goes, right-wing radicals don't, but there are no limits. Therefore you can not coalition with the AfD.
ZEIT ONLINE: The fact that you were coalitioned with Schill did not rub off on you. On the contrary, you have become even more popular. How so?
From Beust: The SPD was foaming at the time: it made it socially acceptable and is rewarded with an absolute majority. But you have to see it psychologically: people saw what they did with their choice. And I was the dragon slayer, kicked him out, which was a risk. I didn't know if I would actually be re-elected. People liked that.