Could Germany’s spymaster row bring down coalition?
Outrage at failure to remove Hans-Georg Maassen exposes deep divisions within government
German lawmakers from across the political spectrum have expressed outrage at the apparent promotion of the head of the country’s domestic spy agency, following allegations he harbours far-right sympathies.
Hans-Georg Maassen, who led the Office of Constitutional Protection, appeared to question the authenticity of a viral video showing right-wing protesters attacking migrants. He later said his comments had been misunderstood and denied showing any favour to the right.
Nevertheless, politicians from across the board, except for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, called for him to be removed.
After nearly two weeks, coalition leaders moved Maassen to the Interior Ministry.
CNN says many have condemned the “apparent promotion” as a “‘pseudo solution’ that mocks those campaigning against the growing threat of far-right violence in Germany”. It has also “inflamed tensions among the rank-and-file of the ruling parties”, reports Paul Carrel for Reuters.
The slow-burning scandal has exposed the bitter divisions within the ruling coalition which is made up of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the left-wing Social Democrats (SPD).
Far from the putting the issue to bed, the strong reaction from lawmakers “suggests that the government’s apparent attempt at appeasement has failed and that discontent within the ruling coalition - which was cobbled together in January after previous talks collapsed - is deepening”, says CNN.
The “clumsy compromise to end the row over the fate of Germany’s spy chief has exposed a cruel fact” says Carrel: “the parties in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s right-left coalition are loveless partners in a dysfunctional relationship that none of them can afford to quit”.
Following a series of setbacks that have repeatedly weakened the coalition, polls point to support for CDU-CSU and SPD hemorrhaging to the far-right AfD and the hard-left ecologist Greens.
This has provoked panic in both the SPD and Merkel’s own party, in what is widely seen as her final term, that they could be badly punished and even pushed out of office in the event of a snap election should the current coalition collapse.
As Josef Joffe, publisher-editor of weekly Die Zeit, put it: “The grand coalition is like a dead marriage where the spouses have too many intertwined assets to be able to separate without heavy losses.”