Volker Ruehe, 42--Now in his ninth year in Parliament, Ruehe is considered one of the rising stars in Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democratic Party. Since the Christian Democrats returned to power in October, 1982, Ruehe has been the party's deputy floor leader. He is also the parliamentary party spokesman on foreign affairs.
Although known as Kohl's man, his remarks have often broken new ground for the party. He views with concern the possibility of Western Europe's becoming overly dependent on the United States and believes West Germany's future lies within an integrated Western Europe. "It is European identity which is the real feeling nowadays in Germany," he said. He strongly urged that Europe's four major powers--France, Britain, Italy and West Germany--formulate a common European position on the Reagan Administration's Strategic Defense Initiative.
Karsten Voigt, 44--A member of Parliament for nearly nine years, Voigt serves as the Social Democrats' spokesman on security and defense matters. Originally a "68-er"--a man who became politically active during the turbulent 1968 anti-government demonstrations--Voigt says his views of the United States have softened since the Vietnam era. He is regarded as a moderate voice within his party.
Voigt favors West Germany's membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the presence of U.S. troops in West Germany. But he bridles at what he regards as U.S. threats, such as the Nunn Amendment, which calls for a reduction of U.S. forces based in West Germany if it fails to increase defense spending. "In the long run, an alliance will end in mutual frustration if it is based on mutual intimidation," Voigt said. He believes the U.S. relationship will play a less dominant role in West Germany's future than in the country's early years as a democracy. He calls this part of a "natural development" as West Germany "becomes accepted as a normal partner."
Oskar Lafontaine, 41--A Social Democrat, Lafontaine has been regarded as the most charismatic young political leader in West Germany since his surprising victory last March in the race for premier of the state of Saarland. His political strength as a populist orator rather than any impressive proposals for resolving the state's many economic problems led to his success.
His radical leftist views are saleable in the economically depressed Saarland, but are likely to make it difficult for him to succeed at the national level in a country, which remains essentially conservative. Lafontaine was at the forefront of his party's fight against deployment of U.S. nuclear missiles in 1983 and has called for West German withdrawal from NATO.
He was elected mayor of the Western steel city of Saarbruecken at the age of 33 and was among those who led internal opposition to the policies of his party's last chancellor, Helmut Schmidt. His election victory revived rock-bottom morale among the Social Democrats' left wing. From his new position as a state premier, he is expected to carry added influence within his party, but his eventual role as a national politician remains unclear.
Otto Schily, 53--In the two years since the Greens entered Parliament, Schily has emerged as the party's most effective Parliament member. He was the only Green on the parliamentary committee investigating political payoffs by the Flick industrial concern. It was his incisive testimony that broke new ground and eventually led to the dramatic resignation of Parliament President Rainer Barzel last October.
Schily first came to public notice in the late 1970s as the defense lawyer for members of the notorious Baader-Meinhof terrorist group. Once considered a a representative of ultra-left thinking, he has played a moderating role in the Greens.
Today, he is considered one of the party's pragmatists on domestic issues. In a recent speech, he advocated West German withdrawal from NATO and the formation of a "Central European Peace Union" with East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark.