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Germany

Press review: Koehler resignation a disservice to office of president

In the wake of German President Horst Koehler's surprise resignation, the German media has lambasted him for damaging the office of president. The country's papers agree he should have weathered the storm of criticism.

Former German president Horst Koehler

The government must now move to fill Koehler's shoes

Amid a growing lack of confidence in the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, and an ongoing economic crisis among the countries that share the euro currency, the unprecedented resignation of the German president, Horst Koehler, came as a total surprise to commentators. The 67-year-old stepped down over protracted criticism of comments he made about Germany's mission in Afghanistan.

Koehler, a member of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), had come under fire for saying that a country like Germany, which was reliant on foreign trade, must know that military interventions could be necessary to uphold German interests. He refused to defend himself against the ensuing media onslaught, a decision which has only exacerbated criticism in the media of his actions.

The Berliner Morgenpost daily writes that Koehler "hasn't done himself or the office of president any favors." It says that Koehler himself advocated greater skepticism and discussion about Germany's mission in Afghanistan, and so it was right that he himself should be the subject of skepticism. "A president must suffer debate, even if it occasionally goes against him … what remains now is surprise over the ease with which the highest representative in the country has flown the coup."

The country's largest circulation quality newspaper, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, was equally scathing, writing "it's unlikely that any person has done as much damage to the office of the federal president as Horst Koehler has done this Monday. Koehler has not laid down the presidency of the country in a measured way, because of illness or serious family circumstances, for example." The paper wrote that Koehler, supposedly a man of firm conservative values, was acting rather like an unpredictable political radical. "Unfortunately this isn't a game, but rather a kick to the office that should represent all Germans," it concludes.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

The resignation is the latest blow to the Merkel government

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes that Koehler's resignation has hit Germany, and in particular the government, during a time of weakness. "From the euro crisis to the rejection of the government's programs, and on to the situations in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Hessen [where Christian Democrat governments have been hit by electoral losses and key resignations], nowhere is there stability and security." The paper questions whether the dykes would hold for Chancellor Merkel's center-right coalition with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), suggesting that "if Merkel wanted to give her coalition new momentum she could offer the position (of president) to a senior minister and appoint a specialist from the states to their position."

The Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung writes that the criticism of Koehler over his comments was "the everyday business of politics and not a reason for a federal president to resign. Koehler has left the country with an unnecessary debate over the presidential succession in the middle of a severe political and economic crisis. His resignation will certainly bring the tattered FDP-CDU government of Chancellor Angela Merkel further into troubled waters."

The Saarbruecker Zeitung, meanwhile, offered this: "Respect on account of his integrity and credibility is due to him. But for quite some time now a creeping loss of presidential authority has been noticeable … it looks now as though he did not have the stature to do justice to the special challenges of the top office."

dfm/dpa

Editor:Michael Lawton

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