Bringing different positions together is one of Armin Laschet’s key skills. But suddenly there is chaos in his NRW coalition. A scandal at the wrong time threatens.
Düsseldorf / Berlin – Armin Laschet is an accomplished moderator of political disputes – not least this reputation made him a serious candidate for the Union chancellor candidacy in the first place. With a top politician of this kind, the CDU finally celebrated some electoral successes.
But now, of all times, in the middle of the Bundestag election campaign, plenty of porcelain in the Laschet black-yellow coalition in Düsseldorf seems to be breaking apart. The occasion as such is explosive: A highly controversial draft of an assembly law – with which the smaller coalition partner FDP wants nothing to do with after a public storm of indignation. Laschet’s government in North Rhine-Westphalia is also under pressure because of a police operation that apparently got out of hand at a demonstration against the plans.
Armin Laschet: Black-yellow coalition in North Rhine-Westphalia suddenly split – new law arouses great concern
Among other things, the law provides for a “militancy ban”. Open-air gatherings that convey violence and intimidation should be prohibited as a matter of principle. The declared aim is to better deal with the marches of extremists. An alliance of critics, on the other hand, sees a “major attack” on freedom of assembly. Among other things, they fear that the law could prevent peaceful counter-demonstrations or the blockade of right-wing extremist marches. The ban on “uniforming” has also met with criticism – trade unionists and football fans also see themselves in the focus.
A demonstration against the plans on Saturday escalated: the police reported that participants had repeatedly violated the ban on masking and had burned down pyrotechnics and smoke pots. There were also attacks on police forces. However, a dpa photographer was also hit several times with a baton by an official, according to his own statements. He reported on at least one other colleague who had also been attacked – dpa editor-in-chief Sven Gösmann called the process an “unacceptable attack on freedom of the press”.
Perhaps also because of this incident, the FDP is now keeping a distance: The Bundestag member Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann put responsibility for the legislative plans on NRW Interior Minister Herbert Reul: She wrote on Twitter of a “Reul draft” – which the FDP certainly does not will accept. Her group colleague Konstantin Kuhle went even further. In the short message service he warned against taking the FDP “jointly responsible for a draft of the CDU-led interior ministry”.
Laschet’s CDU in North Rhine-Westphalia is under intense pressure: FDP dissociates itself violently – and receives criticism itself
The motto in Laschet’s coalition, which only has a wafer-thin parliamentary majority, now seems to be “save yourself if you can”: The CDU, for its part, raised allegations against the FDP. “Both are involved, you don’t do that alone,” Minister Reul, a confidante of Laschet, justified himself in a conversation with the WDR.
According to a report by the station, nothing is known of a counter vote by the FDP in the cabinet. A consensual decision in favor of the bill is also supported by the fact that there is talk of a “bill by the state government” and not a bill by the Minister of the Interior. “The FDP-NRW cannot sneak out that easily,” tweeted the parliamentary manager of the Bundestag Greens, Britta Haßelmann. She called the plans approved by the FDP ministers “an attack on our fundamental rights”.
Laschet is threatened with scandal in the middle of the election campaign: CDU and FDP are fighting for an assembly law – the outcome is open
In any case, chaotic conditions, which Laschet should not come in handy at all. But the dispute could get even worse. According to the WDR, FDP interior expert Marc Lürbke is now calling for adjustments. He spoke out against the “registration” of demo participants. His party is also critical of the police’s powers to record images and sound in closed rooms as well as covert recordings.
It is unclear whether the CDU actually wants to untie the package again. “I think many of those who criticize it have not read it,” said Reul, referring to the allegations and the proposed law. According to Lürbke, the parties are in conversation with each other. In the worst case, the black-yellow coalition in North Rhine-Westphalia could slide into a tangible crisis: the state parliament has the last word on the law – if even one member of the FDP parliamentary group votes against the measures, the plans would have failed. A scandal would be perfect.
Laschet has meanwhile at least promised to clarify the case of the journalist attacked by the police. “Freedom of the press always applies and must be guaranteed everywhere,” he told the dpa on Monday. (fn with material from dpa)