Cem Özdemir: In a zigzag course into the cabinet


Status: December 26, 2021 4:50 a.m.

Cem Özdemir’s political career was anything but straightforward. In 2018 he had already said goodbye to the first row of the Greens. He owes the fact that he is now minister to his success at the grassroots level.

By Jim-Bob Nickschas, ARD capital studio

Cem Özdemir was the only one of the new ministers to get his appointment at Bellevue Palace on two instead of four wheels, and that wasn’t a PR gag – or if so, then just a small one, because: Özdemir can always be seen in Berlin cycling to the Bundestag .

Jim-Bob Nickschas
ARD capital studio

Consistent and in a good mood, just like his plans for the new ministerial office: “I’ve set myself nothing less than the subject of fun, you can have that too.”

Even if Özdemir meant having fun with food, because nutrition is just as much a part of his new job for the long-time vegetarian as agriculture. Many had seen the almost 56-year-old – if at all in the cabinet – more in the Ministry of Transport. After all, he was the last head of the relevant committee in the Bundestag.

Cem Özdemir comes by bike to the handover in the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

Image: dpa

Can he even do agriculture? Özdemir himself believes “that professional competence is one thing”. The other is that you can talk to people. Or “chat”, as the Swabian Özdemir says.

And chatter, that’s what “Cem”, as they call him in his home town of Baden-Württemberg, can do that. He is considered down-to-earth, close to the people – this was also evident in the recent federal election: Özdemir got 40 percent of the first votes in his constituency of Stuttgart I – more than any other Green man in Germany.

The career was not a sure-fire success

A strong argument for the Greens to make him and not Anton Hofreiter minister – in addition to his rhetorical skills, his negotiating skills and his migration background.

Özdemir’s parents came to Germany as guest workers in the 1960s. Now her son is the first German federal minister with a Turkish migration background: “Of course it plays an indirect role,” admits Özdemir. He had received a letter that he would not forget: Someone wrote: “You are now going to where none of us have been. That means a lot to me, it touches me a lot.”

The fact that he would get there one day was by no means a sure-fire success: politically, Özdemir has been going up and down over the past few years: from 2008 to 2018 he was federal chairman of his party, and in 2017 he was even in talks as the new foreign minister – but then the idea of ​​one failed Jamaica coalition in the federal government and Özdemir withdrew from the front row. In 2019, he failed when he tried to be elected to the head of the green parliamentary group. At that time he was subject to Hofreiter.

The aggressiveness has remained

However, Özdemir remained aggressive: “How you sit there from the AfD: If you are honest, you would admit that you despise this country. You despise everything that this country is respected for in the whole world.”

For his angry speech against the AfD in February 2018, Özdemir received a lot of support in the social media – but also headwind, just like for his criticism of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The result: death threats, and Özdemir suddenly needed personal protection. But that didn’t kill him.

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