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Germany

German Opposition Party Applies To Ban Alleged Anti-Semite

In a dramatic reversal on Monday, leaders of Germany’s main opposition party said they would seek to remove a member of their party accused of having made discriminatory comments about Jews.

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CDU leaders want to show Martin Hohmann the door.

The move came after senior party leaders initially gave the Christian Democrat Union’s (CDU) Martin Hohmann a slap on the wrist. Earlier the party forced the parliamentarian from the state of Hessen to give up his seat on the influential Domestic Affairs Committee and instead move over to the Environmental Committee.

But on Monday, Hessen's Premier Roland Koch, who is head of the state's Christian Democrats, said he would submit a request to have Hohmann banned from the party. The move came after the head of the national CDU, Angela Merkel, said she would seek to have Hohmann removed from the party’s group in the Bundestag, Germany's parliament.

"This is a logical consequence of Angela Merkel’s decision," Koch told reporters, following a meeting of parliamentary group leaders. "If Mr. Hohmann is expelled from the parliamentary group, then he can also no longer be a member of the party. There’s a direct relation between the two. I agreed with Angela Merkel about that."

Only a national party leader or the head of the state chapter of a political party is permitted to submit an application to have someone banned from the Bundestag, according to the CDU’s party rules. The parliamentary group is expected to vote on Friday whether to expell Hohmann. His further political fate will be left up to a party tribunal in his home state.

'Great damage' to the party

"Hohmann’s statements and the subsequent public debate greatly damaged the Union," Koch said.

Maria Böhmer, a member of the party’s parliamentary group board, told reporters Monday’s decision came after Hohmann refused to distance himself from the anti-Semitic statements, adding that there was unequivocal support in the group to submit an application for his removal.

Party head Merkel accused Hohmann of discrediting ideas that were important to the CDU. National-conservative voters must be protected, she said. "That we can say: We are proud of our country" is a core component of the party's policies, Merkel said. But it must be done in an unprejudiced manner, "not on the backs of third parties" as Hohmann had, Merkel said in an interview with television broadcaster ZDF on Tuesday.

Politicians from the ruling government coalition hailed the decision in interviews with the news media.

'Overdue'

"This step was overdue," Michael Müller, the Social Democrats’ deputy parliamentary group leader, told the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper. And Green Party Chairman Reinhard Bütikofer described Hohmann’s exclusion from the CDU as the "democratic minimum."

"It took a long time," he told the newspaper. "And there’s no gold medal for that."

But Merkel rebuffed the criticism. Such a far-ranging decision shouldn't be made hastily but must grow, she said in television interviews with broadcasters ARD and ZDF. First the political effects of Hohmann's alleged anti-Semitic speech had to be awaited. Merkel said she had hoped that Hohmann would distance himself from his statements.

In October, Hohmann gave a speech in which he described Jews as a "race of perpetrators." The contents of that speech became highly publicized after a public television station broadcast a report almost two weeks ago. Since then, a national debate has broken out about a recent spate of apparently anti-Semitic sentiment among German politicians and military leaders. Last week, the government sacked former Brigadier Gen. Reinhard Günzel, head of Germany’s KSK Special Forces, after he publicly endorsed Hohmann’s comments.

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