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Comeback Karl?

March 4, 2011

A plagiarized dissertation ultimately cost him his job as defense minister, but political doors remain open to recently-resigned Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, at least according to the German chancellor.

Merkel shares a glance with defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg in the Bundestag
Merkel's not closing the Guttenberg book just yetImage: AP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel believes her disgraced former defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, could still launch a political comeback after resigning earlier this week amid evidence he plagiarized parts of his Ph.D. dissertation.

"The doors to politics are not closed to him, as I see it," Merkel told the Stuttgarter Nachrichten newspaper on Friday, saying Guttenberg "could have continued to be a good minister."

Merkel described Guttenberg's widespread plagiarism in his doctoral law thesis as "part of an earlier period in his life, completely separate from his time as a cabinet minister." Guttenberg was already a relatively high-profile backbencher when he submitted the thesis to the University of Bayreuth in 2006.

Merkel also defended her decision to support Guttenberg, formerly the rising star of her conservative alliance.

"I weighed up the mistakes and accomplishments, and then concluded that Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who is a highly gifted politician, had proved his worth as defense minister," Merkel said.

"For me, the central question was whether [Guttenberg's] undeniable mistakes, which caused him to lose his doctorate in law, would negatively influence his continued political service, or even render it impossible."

Merkel highlights military efforts

Guttenberg listens to a soldier at a German military base in Afghanistan
Guttenberg regularly visited German troops in AfghanistanImage: dapd

Guttenberg resigned from his post as defense minister and gave up his seat in parliament on Tuesday, about two weeks after the first allegations of plagiarism surfaced.

Merkel again acknowledged the seriousness of the academic allegations against her former minister, but said she had hired a politician, not a lawyer.

"What stood against all that, for me as chancellor, was his valuable work for the German military, his early efforts towards reforming the Bundeswehr, his dedication to the soldiers and his clear words on the mission in Afghanistan," Merkel said.

Prior to his plagiarism-riddled resignation, Guttenberg was Germany's most popular politician, considered a strong candidate to one day replace Merkel as chancellor.

Author: Mark Hallam (dapd, dpa)
Editor: Martin Kuebler