German governor rejects calls to resign over Volkswagen speech

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-07 19:20:13|Editor: ying
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BERLIN, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- Stephan Weil (SPD), the governor of the German state of Lower Saxony, rejected calls for his resignation on Monday after allegedly manipulating a speech in favor of the carmaker Volkswagen.

"The supposedly new issue is actually outdated and was already discussed in Lower Saxony more than a year ago. This is just an election campaign maneuver," Weil told the newspaper Bild.

The SPD governor insisted that contrary to claims heard over the weekend, Volkswagen had not removed critically-worded passages in his official speech. As the state of Lower Saxony owns more than 20 percent of Volkswagen shares, Weil has a seat on the Wolfsburg-based carmakers supervisory board.

The public statement was originally made following early revelations surrounding the global "diesel gate" emissions cheating scandal in 2015.

On Sunday, an unnamed Volkswagen employee told the newspaper Bild that the company "re-wrote and softened" Weil's speech. The source claimed that the speech was sent to the carmaker in advance which proceeded to eliminate "problematic passages" and insert "more positive formulations."

Responding on Monday, Weil described these accusations as "groundless" and said that he had only sent a draft to Volkswagen with a request to "examine the legal implications and accuracy of facts" contained.

"We clarified certain legal matters, but the criticism remained. I always stood by my harsh criticism of Volkswagen's behavior," Weil told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

Volkswagen did not want to comment on media reports and instead released a statement that it was "perfectly commonplace for members of a supervisory board to coordinate planned statements about issues of relevance to the company with its leadership."

However, CSU secretary general Andreas Scheuer continued to demand Weil's resignation. "The wheeling and dealing surrounding the governmental declaration in Lower Saxony is a concrete affair and must definitely result in Weil's resignation," Scheuer told newspaper Neue Passauer Presse.

Lower Saxonian Left party (Linke) delegate Herbert Behrens said seeking the firm's approval for the speech was "absurd and a clear indication of the true balance of power in Lower Saxony."

Weil's party colleague Ralf Stegner on Monday described the accusations as a red herring. "This is an unsophisticated attempt to discredit the successful government of Stephan Weil," he said.

In response to criticism, Weil released two manuscripts on Monday, one edited and one unedited, of his speech concerning the German automotive industry. The published documents suggest that Weil accepted some and rejected other suggestions made by Volkswagen. The most critical passages in the speech were left unchanged.

On Friday, the Lower Saxonian Green party (Gruene) delegate Elke Twesten had defected to the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), causing Weil to lose his government's one-vote majority in the regional assembly.

Weil has since called for quick re-elections in parallel to national elections in September, announcing his intention to run for the office of governor again. On Monday, the leaders of Lower Saxony's political factions will meet to discuss possible dates for an early regional poll.