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Germany: Merkel Sacks Official For Breaking Ranks With Conservative Party

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Angela Merkel dismissed a member of her government on Saturday, February 8, 2020, as she grapples with a crisis gripping her coalition after regional MPs from her conservative party sided with the far right in a key vote.

Christian Hirte, the government’s commissioner for eastern Germany and a secretary of state at the economy and energy ministry, was fired after he congratulated a newly-elected leader in the small state of Thuringia who narrowly won a vote this week with the help of the anti-immigrant AfD.

Merkel has condemned the vote, which saw her CDU party vote in the same camp as the AfD to block the re-election of a leftist state premier, as “unforgivable”.

The election broke a taboo in Germany on mainstream parties working with the far-right and has enraged Merkel’s centre-left coalition partners, the Social Democrats, SPD.

“The chancellor has today proposed to the federal president the dismissal of Secretary of State Christian Hirte,” said Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert in a short statement.

Hirte said on Twitter that he had been told he would no longer hold the role of commissioner for the government.

“At her request I have therefore asked to be removed from my post,” said Hirte, who is also the CDU regional vice president in Thuringia.

The SPD had said his position was “no longer tenable”, as the vote sent shockwaves across Germany’s political landscape and put increasing pressure on the already fragile coalition.

The two sides were holding crisis talks on Saturday.

Thanks to the CDU and AfD, Thomas Kemmerich of the liberal Free Democrats, one of Germany’s smaller parties, ousted incumbent premier Bodo Ramelow from the far-left Die Linke party by one vote.

Faced with an uproar, Kemmerich offered his resignation just 25 hours later and called for snap elections.

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