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Altmaier (CDU) and Maas (SPD) in the duel

Thursday, September 7th, 2017 | World News

In the constituency of Saarlouis, two confederate Federal Ministers are fighting each other for a direct mandate. They know each other well, are much in agreement – as far as Saarland is concerned. Frigging nevertheless.

The Saarlouis constituency is only one of 299 in Germany – and yet it is still the focus of these days. For here, not far from the French border, in the West of the Republic, the only duel between two Federal Ministers is a direct mandate for the Bundestag. Peter Altmaier (CDU), head of the Chancellery, has been the pati- ent for eight years. The challenger is Federal Minister of Justice Heiko Maas (SPD), his country's chairman.

What sounds like a fight, both leave relaxed in the Saarland: everyone has a home advantage. "I am from here and would like to win the constituency for the SPD myself," says Maas (50), who has been politically on the road for 20 years. Altmaier (59) looks like this: "I have been in the Bundestag for 23 years and I believe that I know the area, the people and the landscape well here." It also contributes to the lack of excitement that both lead the respective national list of their party – and have a place in the Bundestag.

  They also know each other out of the way, they have sat together at the Berlin Cabinet table in recent years, and also represent Saarland's interests beyond party boundaries. The deal is respectful. "My principle is to argue and struggle with the political opponent in the matter, but not to denigrate him personally," says Altmaier. Maas adds that he too does not oppose the political opponent, but: "It is to work out where one is of a different opinion."

It is not really decided whether the constituency with its almost 280,000 inhabitants is red or black. From 1990 to 2005 the direct mandate was firmly in the hands of the leftist SPD politician Ottmar Schreiner. It was not until 2009 that Altmaier succeeded in breaking the mandate after several failed attempts. "You see, I've always had strong counter-candidates and am used to suffering and suffering," says Altmaier. At the Bundestag elections in 2013, the CDU had won all four constituencies on the Saar.

 Unity among ministers
With the now very prominent race, it is not surprising that the SPD chancellor candidate Martin Schulz completed his only election campaign in Saarland in Saarlouis (9 September). And Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) is also expected in Dillingen on 15 September in the constituency to which the counties of Saarlouis and Merzig-Wadern belong. In the constituency of 297 the celebrity density is also high: the politician pair Oskar Lafontaine and Sahra Wagenknecht (both left) in the town of Merzig at home.

There is little political difference between Heiko and Peter in the case of Saarland. "In Saarland, we are very closely linked to the fate of the combustion engine and the diesel engine," says Altmaier, referring to numerous automobile and supplier companies. "That is why we are not interested in the diesel being badly spoken." Maas explains that Saarland must also remain reliably accessible by air and rail. "I can see that," Altmaier assures. In unison, they also explain that the expansion of electromobility should be stepped up.

Chocos against triathlon
With all harmony: The two are not always an opinion. The heavyweight Altmaier confesses: "I am cake-loving, I love cream and chocolate." The wiry Meuse is sporting: "Triathletes never give up." Politically, too, there is a difference in the big federal policy: Maas is responsible for the abolition of the passenger car toll, Altmaier says: "It is decided." Maas mocked, Merkel always calls for a summit in case of problems, Altmaier replies that summits would have proved themselves in the grand coalition.

Thus, during the only direct exchange of views between the two ministers in the constituency, which was recently organized by the magazine "Forum" in Saarlouis, it remains at Frotzeleien. Altmaier, for example, reports that at the parish festival in Fraulauters, he even greeted the people "warmly" by Heiko Maas. "This is how far it is now," says Maas, amused. "This has nothing to do with kindness, that is to stifle the election campaign in any form from the beginning."

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