Berlin's new city coalition is in uproar over the ouster of its housing specialist because of his past with the Stasi secret police. Andrej Holm is a campaigner for affordable rents as the capital's real estate booms.
Holm pre-empted a dismissal by Mayor Michael Müller by submitting his resignation Monday, despite being nominated by Berlin's Left party only five weeks agoas the city-state's secretary for housing.
Since its formation in early December, Müller's three-way coalition, comprising his Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and the Left, had faced criticism from opposition Christian Democrats (CDU) over the 46-year-old's past.
Now a sociologist, Holm was the son of a Stasi officer and a cadet himself in East Germany. When he was hired by Berlin's Hmboldt University in 2005, he failed to tick a box on a form to admit to his Stasi past.
The university's findings on the matter are expected Wednesday.
Regrets from Left
On Monday Katrin Lompscher, Berlin's regional Left party leader and the construction and development secretary, said she saw no grounds for Holm's dismissal and regretted his decision to quit.
"For me this decision is bitter but, however, plausible because the necessary political backing in the coalition for him was not strong enough," Lompscher said.
She vowed that Holm would remain an "important impulse and advisory figure" to Berlin's Left faction on rental housing development.
Berlin Culture Secretary Klaus Lederer, also of the Left, admitted that his party "should have looked at the files."
Announcing his resignation, Holm said he had "pulled the emergency brake."
"In the last few days, the SPD and the Greens have made it clear that they would not politically support me as secretary," Holm said.
The dismissal calls had centered "not on my past time with the Stasi and a false tick in the questionnaire," but instead on "fears about a change in the sector of city development and housing policies," Holm said.
On Saturday, deputy mayor Ramona Pop, the leader of the Green faction in Berlin, said Holm's impending departure would "enable the Senate to concentrate on its work."
City modernization backlog
Last month, Florian Graf, the regional secretary-general of the opposition Christian Democrats, said Holm's inclusion in the new government had created "one great problem more."
Berlin's three-way coalition took office on December 8, pledging to modernize the growing city's administration, upgrade school buildings and build 55,000 new state-owned housing units.
Müller has governed the city since 2014, since the resignation of the previous SPD mayor, Klaus Wowereit.
ipj/mkg (dpa, epd, AFP)