Merkel Shuffles Cabinet German Interior Minister to Replace Guttenberg

Only one day after the resignation of Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg as Germany's defense minister in a plagiarism scandal, SPIEGEL ONLINE has learned that the country's current interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, is to replace him.

Stepping into the void: Thomas de Maizière of Merkel's CDU will become Germany's new defense minister.
AP

Stepping into the void: Thomas de Maizière of Merkel's CDU will become Germany's new defense minister.


Following the abrupt announcement on Tuesday that Germany's highly popular defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, would step down from his post following a plagiarism scandal involving his doctoral thesis, sources informed SPIEGEL ONLINE Wednesday that Thomas de Maizière, the current interior minister, would be moving into Guttenberg's former job.

Guttenberg is a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), with which it shares power in the federal government. The Defense Ministry had initially been allocated to the CSU in the current government. But Tuesday's announcement left the CSU without an obvious candidate for the post, requiring a slight shuffling of Merkel's cabinet. The new interior minister will reportedly be Hans-Peter Friedrich, the head of the CSU in the German parliament, the Bundestag.

Sources said that Merkel and CSU party boss Horst Seehofer had agreed to the changes. By swapping the Defense for the Interior Ministry, also considered to be a key government ministry, the CSU is able to maintain its balance of power in the goverment coalition with Merkel's CDU and the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP).

Shift Could Cost CSU

Still, the shift could come at a cost to the CSU, which has dominated Bavarian politics for decades. The state is home to a large number of German military bases. The Bundeswehr, the armed forces, are currently undergoing comprehensive reforms and the CSU may not have as much influence over base closures as it did under Guttenberg's leadership.

De Maizière, who will be taking over the Defense Ministry, is considered to be an experienced strategist. A cousin of the last prime minister of East Germany, Lothar de Maizière, he began his career in 1983 working on the staff of then West Berlin Mayor Richard von Weizsäcker. After several positions in state government, he was hired by Merkel in 2005 to head her Chancellery as part of a "grand coalition" government that included her conservatives and the center-left Social Democrats.

After the Christian Democrats entered into a new government with the FDP in 2009, Merkel appointed de Maizière as her interior minister. More recently, his name had been discussed as a potential successor to Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. It has long been rumored that Schäuble may have to leave office for health reasons.

The purported new interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, is considered to be a calm, affable and ambitious politician. He is tenacious, well connected, communicative and credible. At the age of 16, he joined the conservative party's youth wing. Trained as a lawyer, the Bavarian politician began his national political career as an aide to Michael Glos, a senior CSU official in parliament. Friedrich has been a member of the Bundestag since 1998.

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