The government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in crisis, following the resignation of Germany’s president Horst Koehler on May 31.
Koehler — a former head of the International Monetary Fund, and German president since 2004 — resigned after a public backlash against comments he made connecting the German economy with increased overseas military deployments.
On a May 22 visit to the German military mission in Afghanistan — something 80% of the German population opposed — Koehler told German radio that further military deployments were necessary “to protect our interests, for instance trade routes … or preventing regional instabilities that could negatively impact our trade, jobs and incomes”.
Constitutional lawyer Ulrich Preuss called it a “discernibly imperialist choice of words”.
Klaus Ernst, co-leader of the anti-war left-wing party Die Linke claimed that Koehler had “openly said what cannot be denied”.
Ernst said Afghanistan is a “war about influence and commodities” and was about defending the export interests of large corporations.
Facing enormous public outcry, Koehler resigned as president, citing a “lack of the necessary respect” for his position. A new president must be appointed within 30 days.
The German president holds a largely ceremonial role, and is appointed by the parliament. But Koehler’s resignation further destabilises Merkel’s already struggling Christian Democrat (CDU) government.
Merkel’s own popularity continues to slide, while her pro-business coalition partner — the Free Democrats (FDP) — have slumped to 6% in recent polls.
She also faces a growing euro-debt crisis and popular opposition to Germany’s contribution to the bailout of the Greek economy.
In a country where any military involvement is unpopular, a recent scandal revealed German ex-soldiers working as mercenaries for Somali warlord Abdinur Ahmen Darman.
To make matters worse, the previous week right-wing CDU heavyweight Roland Koch resigned as governor of Hesse, home to Germany’s banking capital of Frankfurt, making a barbed attack on Merkel.
On May 9, the CDU lost elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state. A coalition state government between the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and FDP looks likely now the SPD have ruled out working with Die Linke.
The defeat in the state election also means Merkel has lost control of the German Bundesrat (Upper House). Her political position is becoming increasingly unstable. Speculation is rising that she might not last her full term.