Quadriga - German Coalition – Crisis of Confidence | Quadriga - International Debate from Berlin | DW | 20.02.2014
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Quadriga - German Coalition – Crisis of Confidence

The investigation of a former member of parliament for possible possession of child pornography has plunged Chancellor Merkel's government into a deep crisis. A cabinet minister has resigned, and could be prosecuted for passing on information that should have remained secret. Trust within the coalition has been damaged. And there are fears the rule of law in Germany has been undermined.

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Bavarian conservative Hans-Peter Friedrich resigned as a cabinet minister following criticism of his decision last year to warn political rivals of a potential scandal brewing in their ranks. At the time, conservatives and Social Democrats were in talks to form the new government. Friedrich tipped off the SPD about the investigation into prominent Social Democrat Sebastian Edathy who, as the public has since discovered, faces allegations of possessing child pornography. Now Friedrich's CSU party wants to see heads roll at the SPD too.

Prosecutors in Berlin are looking into whether there is evidence that Friedrich, who was Interior Minister at the time, broke the law by passing on the information. The affair raises a tricky question: is it acceptable for a member of a government to use privileged information to avert harm from a future government?

Leading Social Democrat Thomas Oppermann also faces questions. When he learned of the looming scandal, he telephone the head of Germany's criminal investigation authority to find out more. Did Oppermann use his political position to seek to obtain information that should have been kept confidential?

Moreover, it appears that quite a lot of people had knowledge of the investigation into Sebastian Edathy before it was made public. So many are asking: who knew, when and why? Was Edathy himself warned, and was evidence destroyed?

What is clear is that Angela Merkel's government has been severely damaged by all this. But will people's trust in institutions and the rule of law recover after such a messy scandal?

Tell us what you think: German Coalition – Crisis of Confidence


Our guests:

Johannes Leithäuser - is a historian, political scientist and an economist. As a student, he freelanced for a number of newspapers, before eventually taking a job with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Fifteen years ago he joined the paper's Berlin bureau as its East German correspondent. He then served as a correspondent in London for several years. Today, his areas of expertise include domestic politics, as well as European and foreign affairs.

Anthony Paterson - He began his career as a journalist in London and has worked as a foreign correspondent from, Paris, Bonn, Warsaw, Vienna and Berlin. He covered the rise of the Solidarity trade union in Poland for the American news agency UPI and the fall of the Berlin Wall for the BBC. He is now the Berlin correspondent for the London daily newspaper The Independent.

Christiane Meier - began her career in journalism in northern Germany working for several local broadcasters. She later made the move to Bonn before crossing the Atlantic in 2000 to take up a post with the German public channel "ARD", at its Washington bureau. Ms Meier returned to Germany in 2007 and is still working for "ARD". She is now based in Berlin where she is responsible for foreign affairs, the chancellor, the Greens as well as environmental issues.