Helmut Kohl square proposal rejected by Frankenthal residents | News | DW | 02.09.2017
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Helmut Kohl square proposal rejected by Frankenthal residents

Locals in Frankenthal have voted against plans put forward by the CDU to rename the town's main square after its most famous son, Helmut Kohl. All local parties must now agree on how to honor the late chancellor.

Christian Democratic Union (CDU) lawmakers in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate were forced to back down from their proposal to rename the main square in Frankenthal after the town's most famous son, the late Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Gabriele Bindert, the state's CDU party chair, apologized on Friday after the proposal spurred resentment among opposition lawmakers and large groups of locals.

Read more: Opinion: The self-destruction of Helmut Kohl's legacy

Bindert said her party was surprised by residents' reaction to the proposal as lawmakers felt they were acting in the public's interest. "This was not the case. It was a mistake, and we will learn from it to make sure something like this does not happen again," she added.

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Helmut Kohl: From the province to the world stage

On Wednesday, officials in Frankenthal city council, where the CDU boasts the most seats, voted in favor of the proposal to rename the town's central Rathaus-Platz (or City Hall Square) after Kohl. "We could have discussed the issue at least five more times," Bindert told the local Rheinpfalz newspaper. But since the opposition had no serious alternative suggestions on how to honor Kohl, that would have made little sense, she added.

That angered opposition lawmakers, who claimed the CDU forced the vote. In a statement, Beate Steeg, a leading local member of the Social Democrats (SPD), accused the CDU of "not only doing serious damage to the political culture in Frankenthal with its outright rejection of orderly process but also doing a disservice to Helmut Kohl's honor."

Steeg also said that, following earlier conversations with Bindert, she was under the impression that her CDU counterpart was only pushing for a discussion on the motion - not a vote.

Moving forward

Steeg said all parties were glad to honor Kohl, but that the main square, which has kept its name for centuries, was not a suitable place.

"To rename it would have an emotional effect on many Frankenthal locals," she said, adding that the square was home to town's administrative building and should, therefore, be kept politically neutral.

After conceding that the original proposal was doomed, Bindert admitted that all parties should agree on how to honor Kohl, saying that a "commemoration will only take place with the participation of other political groups and the local population."

Kohl died on June 16 at his home in Ludwigshafen, just 15 kilometers (9 miles) from Frankenthal. As head of the CDU, Kohl served as Germany's longest post-war leaderfrom 1982 to 1998. As chancellor, he oversaw the dissolution of the Soviet Union and German reunification.

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