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Quadriga # 04.03.2011

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"It's the most painful step of my life," declared Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg in his resignation speech. After a meteoric rise from simple lawmaker to Germany's most popular politician, it was his doctoral thesis that brought about his downfall. For two weeks, zu Guttenberg tried to play down allegations of plagiarism and wriggle out of the ensuing scandal. But pressure from all sides, from inside and outside Germany's parliament, was simply too great.

His closest political allies were said to be dejected by the news, his colleagues in the cabinet filled with regret and respect. The opposition parties, however, had achieved what they had set out to do -- to bring zu Guttenberg down. For Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union, his resignation came as a bitter blow. Since the scandal first hit the headlines, she had stood by her embattled defense minister and attempted to deflect the allegations by drawing a line between his current duties in office and his earlier doctoral thesis. The Social Democrats and Greens say the affair has ended in embarrassment for her.

The timing couldn't have been worse. A series of local and regional elections are due to take place this year, the most far-reaching reforms in the history of the German armed forces are about to be launched and debate is set to intensify over the future of Germany's military presence in Afghanistan -- and now Chancellor Merkel must find a new defense minister. The CDU's Bavarian sister party, the CSU, is short on promising figures. Zu Guttenberg was its shining star and long considered the natural successor to party leader and Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer. A feeling of helplessness seems to have taken hold of a party that has perhaps become a little too reliant on zu Guttenberg's popularity. So what now? Chancellor Angela Merkel’s first move was to find a quick replacement: Germany’s interior minister Thomas de Maizière will step into the void and become the new defense minister. Meanwhile, the CSU’s Hans-Peter Friedrich will take over de Maizière’s role at the Interior Ministry.

What do you think: Aftermath - Defense Minister zu Guttenberg Resigns

Write to us at Quadriga@dw-world.de


Our guests:

Friedrich Thelen - After earning his doctorate in law, in 1975 he took on the post of director at the German Development Service. Friedrich Thelen then worked as a journalist for the leading weekly newspaper "Die Zeit". In 1978 he switched to the business weekly "Wirtschaftswoche", where he began his career as the magazine's Bonn correspondent and bureau chief. Later he became the bureau chief of Wirtschaftswoche's Berlin office.

Steffen Grimberg - After studying journalism and history in Germany and Scotland, Steffen Grimberg completed an internship program at a local newspaper. He went on to work as a journalist for two daily papers, the Westfällische Rundschau and the Thüringer Allgemeine, and a German university magazine called Deutsche Universitätszeitung. He also worked in CNN’s Berlin bureau. Since 2000, Steffen Grimberg has worked full time at the Berlin daily newspaper taz. He also serves as a lecturer at the University of Göttingen, the Berlin Journalism School and the Adolf-Grimme Academy. He has authored and co-authored numerous publications on a variety of topics, including the state of journalism and media in Germany.

Margaret Heckel - After studying economics in Heidelberg and the USA, Margaret Heckel completed her training at the "Georg von Holtzbrinck school of Journalism for modern business and finance journalism.” She then moved on to become the correspondent for Eastern Europe for the weekly publication "Wirtschaftswoche.” In 1999, she switched to the Financial "Times Germany," where she ran the economic policy desk and later was in charge of the political desk as well as managing the Berlin office. In 2006, she took over the political desk for “Die Welt,” “Die Welt am Sonntag” and the “Berliner Morgenpost.” Today she works as a freelance journalist and operates her own websites www.starkemeinungen.de and www.das-tut-man-nicht.de.