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Gauck candidacy splits Merkel's coalition

The Local · 21 Feb 2012, 12:20

Published: 21 Feb 2012 11:07 GMT+01:00
Updated: 21 Feb 2012 12:20 GMT+01:00

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The fallout from the row between the CDU and the FDP spilled into public after stories emerged of a stormy meeting between the coalition partners as the decision was being made on Sunday.

According to media reports, Chancellor Merkel was incensed after she only heard of the FDP’s decision to back Gauck via the news wires.

“It got loud,” one anonymous participant in the meeting told the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Volker Kauder, head of the CDU’s parliamentary faction was said to have been particularly infuriated, because he had a reputation for defending the shaky alliance with the Free Democrats.

The FDP’s announcement forced Merkel either to back Gauck’s nomination or risk the future of her centre-right coalition – something she decided against in the face of the ongoing euro crisis and the massive popularity of Gauck.

FDP leader Philipp Rösler, who is also vice chancellor and economy minister, told Die Welt on Tuesday that the conservatives had seriously threatened to bring down the government. "The (CDU) mentioned ending the coalition several times," he said.

While CDU General Secretary Hermann Gröhe warned his party “not to lash out in public,” some of his senior colleagues could not resist taking swipes on Monday and Tuesday.

Deputy parliamentary leader Michael Kretschmer called the FDP’s behaviour a “flagrant breach of trust,” while his colleague Wolfgang Bosbach warned darkly, “you always meet twice in a lifetime,” – a German saying warning that bad decisions often come back to haunt you.

Indeed, there have already been suggestions that the CDU could now overrule the FDP on some of its flagship policies, such as reducing taxes, defending data protection, and its opposition to ratifying the international copyright agreement ACTA. For a party still languishing in the opinion polls, the long-term effect on the FDP could be devastating.

But FDP leader Rösler defended his party’s actions.

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“For us it was about the honour and the authority of the office of head of state,” he told Die Welt newspaper, denying that his decision to support Gauck was mere populism. “If it had been about the FDP, then with our poll ratings I wouldn’t have risked new elections.”

FDP General Secretary Patrick Döring backed him up in the Passauer Neue Presse daily: “It’s pretty surreal if we’re now being criticized for supporting the candidate who has the biggest support among the people.”

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The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

14:03 February 21, 2012 by vonSchwerin
Can we please just finish off the FDP and found a new, modern, social-liberal party that has some issue other than taxes and half-baked, opportunistic internet policies?

There's so much more to Liberalismus, but Rösler, Döring, and the whole Boy Gang are not up to the tradition of H-D Genscher, Graf Lambsdorff, and Annemarie Renger.
14:14 February 21, 2012 by yoyojojo
whom was the cdu going to nominate? did they have their own first choice?
14:16 February 21, 2012 by vonSchwerin
OOPS!!! My mistake. I meant Marie Elisabeth Lüders, not Renger (SPD).
15:38 February 21, 2012 by Navigator_B
The FDP risked their position in government for the sake of a right wing candidate like Gauck who praised Thilo Sarrazin for showing "courage" in writing his xenophobic book. There's nothing unexpected about that because the only thing important to the FDP is that Gauck is anti-communist. The only thing that is strange is that they keep on calling themselves the Liberals, and most of the media call them that too. Why can't everyone just be honest and call them the neo-liberals instead?
18:24 February 21, 2012 by raandy
Thats an inspiring and motivated looking group.
18:32 February 21, 2012 by yoyojojo

merkel and gauck look like they are both about to do something unpleasant, but necessary. rösler looks like he's holding in his gut and can barely breath. at least trittin, in the back row, seems to be in good humour.
21:01 February 21, 2012 by romber58
As someone who has no time for religion and Priests/Pastors,I nevertheless think that the choice of Gauck is the nearest thing to having had a Referendum here.

That he is not married to his partner makes him more sympathetic to me.

The polls show that Gauck is the favourite of the majority of Germans and therefore i couldn,t care less whose overblown political ego has been hurt.
21:47 February 21, 2012 by Englishted
@Chango Mutney

I would just point out that you live in the U.K. (in case you forgot) and like you we here in German have a conservative government as has most of Europe which may explain the long faces and I don't mean the photo.
21:50 February 21, 2012 by Terry Johnson
The choice of Herr Gauck is only a reflection of the state of German morals. Where else can you be married, have four children, be a pastor, and have a girlfriend twenty years younger. I think Herr Gauck needs to clean up his personal life and follow the standard of the silent majority.
23:04 February 21, 2012 by TheCrownPrince
Yes, maybe in some other countries he wouldn't stand a chance with this private background; but - on the other hand - in those places it wouldn't be of much importance for your qualification as head of state if you believed that the earth is flat and only 6000 years old, or that Sweden is a continent. Or if you casually forget what ministries you want do away with once you are in office. Hmmm, better Herr Gauck with his messy personal life then.
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