German President Focus of SPD Criticism | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 09.06.2005
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German President Focus of SPD Criticism

German president Horst Köhler has come under fire from senior Social Democrats accusing him of taking sides with his fellow conservatives and pressing for the resignation of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.


Caught between a rock and a hard place?

The German capital these days is a hot spot of speculations and rumors intentionally spread to inflict maximum damage to political foes ahead of September's early elections.

The latest allegations have come from the left wing of the ruling Social Democrats who are accusing the German presidential office of intentionally leaking information from a meeting between the German president and Chancellor Schröder, held to discuss ways towards early elections.

One day after the meeting in May, Germany's leading tabloid Bild alleged Schröder had called early elections because he feared a leftwing revolt in his party after a crushing defeat in a regional poll in North Rhine-Westphalia.

27.05.2005 tt interview stiegler.jpg

Ludwig Stiegler

Senior SPD members such as Ludwig Stiegler, one of the party's deputy parliamentary leaders, now assume that there is a conservative network in the vicinity of the president that gave away the details in an attempt to damage the chancellor.

"The information must have been leaked by a well-known old-boys network of conservatives surrounding the German president," Stiegler, who has described Köhler as the "politically most one-sided president" he has known.

"We have to make this public and advise the president to be more watchful about the type of people on his staff," Stiegler added.

Party revolt or presidential intrigue?

Some Social Democrats are now even suggesting the German president would seek the resignation of the chancellor rather than accept Schröder's plan to deliberately lose a confidence vote in parliament.

Der SPD-Vorsitzende Franz Müntefering kündigt Neuwahlen für den Herbst an

Franz Müntefering

The latest accusations have come only one day after rumors that senior SPD leaders would be planning to replace Schröder with SPD party leader Franz Müntefering and continue ruling until regular elections in 2006. On Tuesday, Schröder publicly dismissed these rumors as utter nonsense and apparently spawned by the opposition conservatives.

On Wednesday, Markus Söder, general secretary of the ultra-conservative CSU party said that much of what was currently happening clearly reflected a government in dissolution.

"All these rumours and allegations are a clear indication of how deeply split the ruling Social Democrats are," Söder said.

"They are showing that the government is totally preoccupied with itself and unable to solve the problems. What we need now is a clear statement by the chancellor about how he wants to bring about early elections."

60 Jahrestag Kriegsende Berlin Gottesdienst Schröder Köhler

Köhler (left) was angered by Schröder's failure to inform him of his early election plans ahead of going to the press.

The German chancellor, however, continues to remain silent. There is speculation that cabinet ministers could abstain in the vote of confidence and so undo Schröder's three-seat majority in parliament. But questions are arising whether this plan is in line with Germany's constitution.

President Horst Köhler plays a key role in the unfolding events because he must decide whether to dissolve parliament after such a vote of confidence. Theoretically, he could reject it, throwing the timetable for September's election into doubt and maybe still forcing the chancellor to resign in the end.

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