How well do you represent your country

The CDU city councilor Jesse Jeng from Hanover could have run for the Bundestag in 2021. It is about the direct mandate in constituency 42, for which Ursula von der Leyen was the candidate of the Christian Democrats until she moved to Brussels; but it always moved into the Bundestag via the state list. But Jeng, 32 years old, does not run: He does not want four men to run for the Union in the four constituencies of the Hanover region. He lets a woman go first.

SZ: How did you come to renounce in favor of a woman?

Jesse Jeng: At the very end I asked myself the question: Can I achieve so much in the Bundestag that I compensate for the fact that in the Hanover region four men are running for the Bundestag and no women? Can I make up for that without sending a disastrous sign?

And you decided that a woman should try?

My daughter is one year old. I always have my best in view, but I know there will be points because I will not understand them. You need a woman there. At the end of the day, women have to represent women. Even if I don't impose on a man not to have the best in view. That's just the truth, my truth. So I came to the conclusion: If we really want to change something, we can write quota everywhere. Then we can give Sunday speeches anywhere. At the end of the day, someone has to do without.

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So it wasn't a natural decision?

On the contrary. I do a lot in local politics in Hanover and I am relatively well known. I personally sacrificed a lot for it. You know what it means to do the ox tour in politics. And the renunciation is hard, it was a conflict of conscience. I fought with myself.

Would you have had a chance? After all, it is about the former constituency of Ursula von der Leyen.

I was asked if I would like to compete. From this you can conclude that I have some support. Ms. von der Leyen comes from the constituency and was my mentor in a CDU talent development program. She accompanied me for a year and a half, after which I led her election campaign. When she had withdrawn, the first members approached me whether I could imagine becoming the successor. Then the thought matured in me that I would like to do that.

Does the thought of giving priority to a candidate also have something to do with Frau von der Leyen?

We once had a conversation about the women's quota, at the time it was about the supervisory boards. She referred to her own experience and said that it was also a problem from a social science perspective that penguins always hire penguins or one always looks for people who think and are similar to oneself, of the same sex. Of course, Frau von der Leyen influenced me. But I really decided that on my own.

Now only women want to apply for this candidacy - but still only men around the CDU party chairmanship. Is the Union too male-dominated overall?

Perhaps we are setting the wrong incentives so that many women do not even start at the lowest level. I'm just saying: party meetings at 7 or 8 p.m. until deep into the puppets in some corner pubs. Until one o'clock in the morning, as a young father I can't do that either. As for the party leadership: Of course it's a really tough ride, a burden for the family, for the psyche. Many do not want that at all.

In general, politics is not particularly family-friendly. Your impression?

It is a total disaster, if I may say that quite frankly. We hope that a large part of the people in democracy will get involved. You also have to get your ass up yourself, but: The parties really have to give thought, also to the question of family friendliness. It can't be that you have to choose between being committed to society and politics and job and family life. But that's the way it is now, let's not kid ourselves.

In any case, her decision not to get in the way of women seems to be causing a stir. Surprised?

I'm a little happy because it might spark a discussion. A discussion about giving up, not about quotas. Quota is okay, but it just has to become a matter of course that men and women compete and, if in doubt, men also withdraw when they realize that this is good for the CDU. People have also written to me: Jesse, what's the point, revise your decision. I've let people down, too, but it's a principle decision.

Are the principles more important to you than the great opportunity of the Bundestag?

I don't know if the chance will come again. No idea. But I have a fantastic job that also allows me to make the world a better place. I'm the Chief Investment Officer at a start-up for online child protection. And I will certainly look with a little sadness to Berlin, where hopefully the successor will be who has prevailed in our constituency.