German ruling coalition at risk after promotion of controversial intelligence chief: expert

Source: Xinhua| 2018-09-20 02:15:19|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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BERLIN, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- Germany's ruling "grand coalition" is on the brink of collapse following the promotion of a controversial intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maasen, an expert with a ruling German Social Democrats (SPD)-associated think-tank warned on Wednesday.

"The Maasen case shows that the federal government in Berlin is hanging by a thread. The only thing that could be described as grand about this government is the political conflicts which characterize it," Michael Broening, a policy expert with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), told Xinhua.

The expert argued that the nomination of Maasen to a better salaried post as secretary of state in the interior ministry after making controversial comments as president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) about far-right mobilizations in Chemnitz underscored how fractured chancellor Angela Merkel's (CDU) governing cabinet had become.

Maasen has found himself at the center of a widely-publicized national controversy for questioning the authenticity of video footage showing right-wing extremists chasing foreigners in Chemnitz. In doing so, the intelligence agency chief directly contradicted chancellor Merkel and local security officers on the issue before backtracking again in a subsequent report.

As a consequence, the SPD, which forms a coalition government together with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU), argued that Maasen was no longer tenable in his position and recently threatened to return to the opposition benches unless Merkel ensured he was sacked. Merkel reportedly personally favored the removal of Maasen as well.

For Broening the solution reached on Tuesday night to transfer the ex-BfV president to a more senior role in the interior ministry had now "transformed a political drama into a farce." Interior minister and CSU leader Horst Seehofer is a staunch supporter of Maasen in the affair and has previously said that he would have participated in the Chemnitz demonstrations himself if he were a regular citizen.

Although Maasen's promotion after being accused of inappropriate behavior was justified by the leadership of the CDU, CSU and SPD as a pragmatic compromise to preserve the continued existence of the "grand coalition", the personnel decision has already provoked outrage within some quarters of the SPD on Wednesday.

"I urge all SPD members in the governing cabinet to vote against Maasen's nomination," SPD vice-president Natascha Kohnen told the German press agency (dpa). Similarly, SPD youth organization (Juso) leader Kevin Kuehnert argued that the SPD could not afford to allow itself to be mocked in this fashion by Seehofer. Kuehnert said that the time had consequently come to quit Merkel's government entirely.

Nevertheless, Seehofer defended Maasens' even bigger payslip and enhanced responsibilities as being a normal rotation for a "civil service who does his job wherever he is placed." While Maasen's tasks as secretary of state would still focus on similar areas such as the federal police, cyber- and information security, Seehofer noted, however, that they would not include the supervision of the BfV which he formerly led.

Rather than creating an entirely new position in the interior ministry, secretary of state Gunther Adler, a 55-year-old construction expert and former SPD official, will allegedly be forcibly retired.

It is still unclear who will replace Maasen at the BfV. According to Seehofer, it is a matter of "national security" that he retains his leadership function at the agency in the interim until a suitable successor is found.