“It was a fatal mistake by Steinmeier to take Frau Schmidt onto his election team,” Wolfgang Bosbach, deputy leader of the Christian Democratic (CDU) parliamentary group, told daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung.
Meanwhile Free Democrat (FDP) politician Patrick Döring told daily Bild that Steinmeier should ask Schmidt to step down.
“In light of the continued deceitful and camouflaging manoeuvres of Frau Schmidt, the SPD should fundamentally review whether such a minister is acceptable,” he told the paper.
Schmidt, who has been Health Minister for eight years and a member of parliament since 1990, has been damaged by revelations about how she used her government car. The affair erupted in July when it was stolen in Spain after she had told her chauffeur to drive from Berlin to her holiday home so she could undertake some official business.
Although she had flown to Spain on her own cost, the seeming profligacy of getting her car to meet her there was a topic for debate and argument, particularly during an economic crisis.
After the National Audit Office cleared her of misuse by a preliminary report in early August, SPD chancellor candidate and current Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier took her onto his election team.
But new information from the Health Ministry has revealed that Schmidt used her official car, a €90,000 armoured Mercedes S-Class, on vacations in 2004 and 2008. The ministry cited security reasons and said Schmidt had not violated the law.
Head of the parliamentary budgetary committee, Free Democrat Otto Fricke criticised the explanation as “insufficient and nebulous as before,” adding that taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for such trips. Fricke told Bild he advocated an inquiry into Schmidt’s activities.