BERLIN Feb 16 Chancellor Angela Merkel will
meet leaders of her coalition partners, the Social Democrats
(SPD) and Christian Social Union (CSU), on Tuesday to try to
resolve a crisis over the forced exit of a conservative
The ouster of Hans-Peter Friedrich on Friday over his
handling of confidential information about a looming inquiry
into a SPD lawmaker suspected of possessing child pornography
has split Merkel's two-month-old coalition just as it was trying
to enact urgently needed pension and energy reforms.
Sources in Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and the SPD
said on Sunday party chiefs would convene after CSU chairman
Horst Seehofer rebuked the SPD for actions that forced Friedrich
to resign as agriculture minister.
"The meeting had been previously scheduled and the affair
will certainly be one of the topics," a party source told
Reuters, adding Merkel, Seehofer and SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel
would be joined by the parties' parliamentary heads.
Tuesday's gathering will be the new government's first
"coalition committee" meeting - a small group of leaders that
meets on an irregular basis to iron out difficulties.
Merkel, who began her third term in December eager to use an
80-percent majority in parliament to tackle domestic and euro
zone issues, wants to defuse tensions over the scandal while
Seehofer, head of her Bavarian sister party, wants revenge
against the SPD for Friedrich, analysts said.
"It has the makings of a full coalition crisis but Merkel
wants to protect her government and hopes it'll all go away,"
said Cologne University political scientist Thomas Jaeger.
Bild am Sonntag newspaper's front page headline declared
Merkel's coalition is "only partially capable of governing"
Germany, the European Union's largest, strongest economy. Der
Spiegel magazine's cover called it: "The affair of state."
Hannelore Kraft, SPD premier in Germany's largest state
North Rhine-Westphalia, said the coalition was in a tight spot
now. "It's a difficult situation when a minister resigns so soon
after a government is formed," she told Bild am Sonntag.
Jaeger said Merkel's governing "grand coalition" could be in
jeopardy if the scandal undermines the position of Gabriel, who
was tipped off about the investigation by Friedrich in October
and passed it along to two other SPD leaders.
What began as a small domestic scandal about SPD lawmaker
Sebastian Edathy erupted into a major political furore when the
SPD's parliamentary leader Thomas Oppermann said that Friedrich
had warned the SPD that Edathy could be a target of an inquiry.
That raised questions whether Friedrich had inappropriately
passed on confidential information about the looming
investigation to Gabriel, possibly in violation of the law.
Prosecutors in Hanover have complained that the leaking may
have compromised their case. Der Spiegel news magazine reported
on Sunday that prosecutors and government officials are
investigating who might have tipped off Edathy about the probe.