Future of Merkel coalition in doubt as interior minister offers to resign

German Interior Minister and leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU) Party Horst Seehofer speaks to journalists after a party leadership meeting at the CDU headquarters in Berlin, on July 2, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 02 July 2018
0

Future of Merkel coalition in doubt as interior minister offers to resign

  • After the Bavarians’ relentless pressure on Merkel, European leaders on Friday agreed to new measures to reduce immigration to the bloc and so-called “secondary migration” of asylum-seekers between countries
  • If Seehofer does quit, the CSU could offer a replacement interior minister if it aims to remain tied to Merkel’s CDU party

MUNICH, Germany: German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition was facing an uncertain future, as her hard-line conservative interior minister Sunday offered his resignation after weeks of battling to change her mind on migrant policy.
Horst Seehofer told fellow leaders of the conservative Bavarian CSU party he wants to resign as both party chief and interior minister, saying he had “no support,” sources at their closed-door meeting in Munich told AFP.
But CSU parliamentary group chief Alexander Dobrindt “does not want to accept Seehofer’s resignation,” participants in the hours-long huddle said.
The lack of clarity from the Bavarian camp raises questions about the future of Merkel’s governing coalition between the CDU-CSU alliance and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD).
If Seehofer does quit, the CSU could offer a replacement interior minister if it aims to remain tied to Merkel’s CDU party.
Alternatively it could break up the two parties’ decades-long partnership, depriving Merkel of her majority in parliament and pitching Germany into uncharted political waters.
To politically survive, Merkel could attempt a minority government, seek a new coalition partner in the ecologist Greens or pro-business Free Democrats, or orchestrate a no-confidence vote in parliament that could trigger new elections.
Meanwhile, the CDU on Sunday offered its sister party no conciliatory gesture in the tug-of-war over whether to seek European solutions to slash migrant numbers or take unilateral national measures.
CDU general secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said in Berlin party leaders were “united” behind “effective, humane solutions together with our European partners.”

After the Bavarians’ relentless pressure on Merkel, European leaders on Friday agreed to new measures to reduce immigration to the bloc and so-called “secondary migration” of asylum-seekers between countries.
Merkel, who has been in office since 2005, warned last week the issue of migration could decide the very future of the EU itself.
Leaders said they would consider setting up “disembarkation platforms” outside the EU, most likely in North Africa, in a bid to discourage migrants and refugees boarding EU-bound smuggler boats.
Member countries could also create processing centers to determine whether the new arrivals are returned home as economic migrants or admitted as refugees in willing states.
At the national level, Merkel also proposed that migrants arriving in Germany who first registered in another EU country should be placed in special “admissions centers” under restrictive conditions, according to a document she sent to the CSU and the Socialists.
The document also outlined deals with 16 other countries to return already-registered migrants if they reached Germany.
Sources said Seehofer rejected Merkel’s assessment that the EU-wide measures would “have the same effect” as his demand to turn away at the border asylum-seekers already registered in other EU nations.
That left him with only three options.
He could defy her orders by ordering border police to carry out his plan, which would force her to fire him and almost certainly break up the CDU-CSU alliance, or he could accept a humiliating climbdown or resign.
As the CDU and CSU parties hunkered down in Berlin and Munich, leaders on both sides sought to clarify what was a stake.
“It’s not about who comes out on top, but about what’s right,” Bavarian state premier Markus Soeder told the CSU gathering, according to news agency DPA.
Meanwhile for Merkel’s troops, “the image of the country, our ability to act and our ability to govern” were at stake, said economy minister and close Merkel ally Peter Altmaier.

The chancellor’s frantic last-minute diplomacy was ultimately prompted by the CSU’s fear of losing its cherished absolute majority in Bavaria’s state parliament.
The “Free State” with its beer-and-lederhosen Alpine traditions, powerful industries and impenetrable dialect has a more conservative bent than other German regions.
But the CSU and CDU together form a center-right force that has dominated national politics for decades.
Political stability was upset by Merkel’s 2015 decision to keep borders open to migrants and refugees arriving from the Middle East via the Balkans, Hungary and Austria.
Since then, more than one million people have arrived in Germany, while Merkel’s governments have repeatedly tightened immigration and asylum laws.
Nevertheless, the anti-refugee, anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) was propelled into federal parliament for the first time last year by outrage over immigration, leading to months of paralysis while Merkel struggled to put together a workable coalition.
Opinion polls point to the AfD making a similarly spectacular entrance to Bavaria’s regional parliament in October.
Weeks of “Merkel-bashing,” however, have failed to help the CSU, as a Forsa poll last week showed around 68 percent of Bavarians backed Merkel’s quest for a Europe-wide answer to migration rather than Germany going it alone.


Duterte skips summit meetings but is in ‘top shape’

Updated 41 min 50 sec ago
0

Duterte skips summit meetings but is in ‘top shape’

  • An official named four scheduled events that Duterte had not attended on Wednesday, during which the president “took power naps” to catch up on sleep
  • Duterte’s health has been a constant source of speculation since he disappeared from public view for a week last year

SINGAPORE: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte skipped several meetings at an Asia-Pacific summit in Singapore on Wednesday, prompting the 73-year-old’s office to issue a statement scotching speculation that it was due to ill health.
“We assure the nation that his aforementioned absence has nothing to do with his physical health and wellbeing which have been the subject of speculation,” spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
“The president’s constantly punishing work schedule is proof that he is in top physical shape.”
Panelo named four scheduled events that Duterte had not attended on Wednesday, during which the president “took power naps” to catch up on sleep, and said he would also skip a gala dinner with the leaders of nine Southeast Asian nations, US Vice President Mike Pence and several others.
Duterte’s health has been a constant source of speculation since he disappeared from public view for a week last year, and he has said openly that he is tired and would like to step down before the end of his term ends in 2022.
Last month Duterte’s office revealed that he had undergone a colonoscopy and he told reporters that a biopsy had shown he did not have cancer.
The constitution provides for the public to be told of the state of health of an incumbent president, if serious.
If a sitting president dies, is permanently disabled or removed through impeachment, the vice president succeeds to serve the remaining years in a six-year, single term.
Vice President Leni Robredo, a leader of the opposition, was elected separately in 2016. Speculation about Duterte’s health last month prompted concern that the Philippines could be headed for uncertainty given the highly polarized political climate.
Duterte has cited Robredo’s “incompetence” as a reason for his inability to quit as president.
Duterte has a record of skipping summit sessions, though he did not miss any as host when the Philippines held the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) last year.
Panelo said it was “amusing that some quarters are making a big fuss” of Duterte’s absences, noting that he had attended ASEAN meetings with leaders from China, Japan and Russia.
“Last night, the president worked late and had only less than three hours of sleep,” he said. “It is unfortunate that the first event scheduled today was at 8:30a.m.”
Duterte is known for having an unorthodox working schedule that typically starts mid-afternoon and includes cabinet meetings that can go on beyond midnight.