02/09/2009 11:02 AM

Surprise Resignation

Germany Gets a New Economy Minister

German Economy Minister Michael Glos has resigned and will be succeeded by a fellow Bavarian conservative, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. The chaotic handling of his resignation has prompted criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Germany's Economy Minister Michael Glos has resigned following months of criticism of his handling of the financial crisis and will be replaced by fellow Bavarian politician Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.

Glos is reported to have been frustrated at being sidelined in the handling of the financial crisis.
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Glos is reported to have been frustrated at being sidelined in the handling of the financial crisis.

Glos, a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, had tendered his resignation on Saturday but his request was initially refused by CSU leader Horst Seehofer.

Merkel too is reported to have rejected his resignation at first, which effectively left the running of a major German ministry in limbo at a time when Germany is facing its worst economic downturn since World War II. That prompted criticism of Merkel's leadership by opposition parties and by the center-left Social Democrats, who share power with Merkel's conservatives.

"The CDU leader (Merkel) doesn't seem to be in a position to live up her to her responsibility to lead here," the SPD's general secretary Hubertus Heil told the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper in an interview published on Monday.

Glos, 64, said he had no intention of remaining on as cabinet minister after the September general election and that his departure now would enable his party to campaign with a new minister in place. It would also help restore trust in the CSU following its poor showing in the Bavarian regional election last September, said Glos.

But media reports said Glos had fallen out with Seehofer and was frustrated that he had been sidelined in the government's handling of the financial crisis. Glos was a surprise choice as economy minister after the 2005 federal election and struggled to make his mark in the job.

He took a long trip to Asia when the financial crisis broke out and Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück of the Social Democrats has had a far more prominent role in arranging and presenting the government's various banking rescue and economic stimulus packages in recent months.

In the delicate power balance of Merkel's coalition, the position of economy minister is the domain of the CSU. Zu Guttenberg, who was formally announced as new minister on Monday, has been general secretary of the CSU for just a few months following a major reshuffle within the Bavarian party.

He is 37 years old and is regarded as an expert on foreign policy and trans-Atlantic relations.

cro -- with wire reports


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