German Chancellor Angela Merkel has sacked her environment minister, Norbert Roettgen, days after he led her party to a crushing defeat in a key regional election.
The fact that Angela Merkel allowed one of her closest confidants to fall shows that “the crisis in the coalition government has now penetrated the innermost circle.” Röttgen had failed not only as the top CDU candidate in North Rhine Westphalia, “but also as federal environment minister in Berlin responsible for the implementation of the green energy transition – one of the most important projects of this country,” said the General Secretary of the Social Democrats (SPD) Andrea Nahles. SPD deputy Ulrich Kelber suggested: “We are now probably going to see how the government will blame Röttgen in the cheapest way for the tally botched energy policies.” He feared that “those who never wanted a green energy transition will now be getting the upper hand even more.” –-Die Welt, 16 May 2012
Germany’s Angela Merkel sacks minister after Westphalia defeat
Mr Roettgen was the candidate of Ms Merkel’s Christian Democrats for the post of state premier in North-Rhine Westphalia.
He was widely blamed for the party’s heavy defeat to the Social Democrats.
The loss was seen as a serious blow to Ms Merkel’s government.
She told a hastily arranged news conference on Wednesday that Mr Roettgen had been dismissed “to allow a change in personnel”.
He was replaced by Peter Altmaier, the Christian Democrats’ leader in the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag.
Mr Roettgen provoked controversy early in the North-Rhine Westphalia campaign by refusing to commit to giving up his job as national environment minister and becoming full-time opposition leader in the state if he lost.
In unusually strongly worded remarks, Horst Seehofer, the head of the Christian Democrats’ powerful sister party in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union, accused Mr Roettgen of having made a “very serious mistake”.
Pointing out that Mr Roettgen had started the campaign three percentage points ahead in the polls, Mr Seehofer said he was astonished that the lead had “melted away like a bowl of ice cream in the sun”.
His remarks on Monday to broadcaster ZDF caused a sensation in the German media.
Support for the Christian Democrats dropped from 35% to 26% in Sunday’s North-Rhine Westphalia election. It was the party’s worst result in the state.
Official results give the Social Democrats (SPD) 39.1%, the Christian Democrats (CDU) 26.3%, the Greens 11.3%, the Free Democrats (FDP) 8.6%, the Pirates 7.8% and the Left, 2.5%, reported AP news agency.
The FDP, the CDU’s national coalition partner, performed better than expected, increasing their vote by nearly two percentage points and thereby giving the lie to speculation that they might fail to win seats.