Obituary: Michaela Geiger

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The Independent Culture
MICHAELA GEIGER reached the high point of her career when she served as a Vice-President of the German Parliament (Bundestag) 1997-98.

She had been put forward twice before but had been beaten by her Christian Social Union (CSU) colleague Hans "Jonny" Klein. She was Chairman of the CSU's working party on foreign policy 1987-91. Appointed State Secretary (junior minister) for Economic Co-operation in 1991, she remained in that post until 1993. Remarkably, she served at the same level in the Ministry of Defence 1993-97.

Geiger's good looks and charm sometimes led people to underestimate her intelligence and think she had got her promotion because of the CSU's "tokenism" towards women. This ignored the courage and determination with which she pursued her ambitions.

Born Michaela Rall in Bavaria, she was the daughter of a Free Democratic local government politician. Her birthplace, the village of Oberammergau, is the deeply conservative home of the internationally famous Passion Play and is renowned for its woodcarvers. In the predominantly Catholic Bavaria, her family were Evangelical Christians. Michaela Rall went to school in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and after gaining her university matriculation (Abitur), in 1963, went for technical training rather than entering university.

She qualified as a television screen technician in Nuremberg in 1964 and worked at that trade until her marriage in 1967, when she became Michaela Geiger. She joined the CSU in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1971, being elected to the local executive in 1975. In the following years her dedication led to various CSU posts including that of Deputy Chairperson of the party's Upper Bavaria organisation.

Geiger's chance to be a player on the national stage came after she had caught the eye of the CSU leader Franz Josef Strauss. In 1980, after losing the federal election as the Christian Democrats' candidate for the Chancellorship, Strauss decided not to take his seat in the Bundestag. Geiger took his place with his blessing. She was re-elected in 1983, 1987, 1990 and 1994. In 1994 she was returned with the third highest percentage vote (62 per cent) of any CSU candidate. She also received the highest percentage gained by any woman of any party in Bavaria.

In 1998 the Christian Social Union of Bavaria held its losses to 3.5 per cent, the lowest percentage loss for the Christian Democrats in any region. Geiger retained her seat, taking 58 per cent of the vote. She was one of only three CSU women to be directly elected and one of the six women out of 47 in the CSU parliamentary party.

She lost her place as Vice-President of the Bundestag at the start of the 1998 session after the CDU/CSU election defeat. Even though she was terminally ill with cancer, Geiger continued her parliamentary work. She remained as Deputy Chair of the Bundestag's foreign affairs committee until the last session before Christmas.

Michaela Gertrud Rall (Michaela Geiger), politician: born Oberammergau, Germany 29 September 1943; married 1967 (one son; marriage dissolved); died Munich 30 Dec- ember 1998.