Last week's decision by Angela Merkel to allow a Turkish criminal complaint against a German comedian is now causing serious problems within her coalition. As a reminder, German comedian Jan Bohmermann faces up to five years in prison for performing a satirical poem directed at President Erdogan.
The backlash has been intense against the German Chancellor as many claim this is an outrageous infringement of free speech, and to add insult to injury, it's being used simply to placate Erdogan who already has strained relations with the German people over the Syrian refugee crisis. As the Telegraph reports, Merkel is now facing a government rebellion over her decision.
Justice Minister Heika Maas has already drawn up legislation that would abolish the law used to prosecute Bohmermann, in hopes of getting it passed before the case can even come to court.
"The special crime of insulting a foreign head of state is out-of-date. The idea of lese-majeste no longer has a place in our criminal law" Mr. Maas was quoted as saying.
Two of the party's most senior ministers, Mr Maas and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the foreign minister, held their own press conferences immediately after the announcement to allow the case in which both disowned the decision. Also, Merkel's main coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD) have also broken with convention and made it clear the SPD opposes the decision to prosecute.
Additionally, the case couldn't have moved forward without Mrs. Merkel's approval, and as the Telegraph points out, there was already precedence in the matter. Requests made on behalf of President George W. Bush and Pope Benedict XVI had already been rejected by previous governments.
With popular disapproval against Merkel on the rise, one can add this debacle to the growing list of headaches for the Chancellor.
Finally, in a tangential matter, Bloomberg's Richard Breslow points out something few have noticed: the German 2017 election campaign may have started in earnest and not only due to Merkel's refugee and "pro-Turkish" faux pas, but as a result of a schism regarding the ECB.
From Richard Breslow:
This morning will be all about an ECB meeting, the outcome of which analysts seem to have pretty much a consensus view on. Traders’ nerves don’t seem particularly frayed.
You could say today’s financial conditions measure feels very loose. But it’s well worth considering two speeches from yesterday that will undoubtedly help shape the debate on the council
Former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King warned adamantly that enough’s enough with monetary policy. German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel rode resolutely to the defense of President Draghi and got right in the policy face of Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble
King isn’t someone who’s always opposed to extraordinary monetary policies. He led the Bank as it took rates down to where they remain
But super low rates for too long risks global disequilibrium. They were meant to buy time while policy makers other than central bankers put in place the fiscal and structural measures to carry the day. That time has been squandered. More the pity
He’s not a lone wolf. He joins a global chorus of sensible and influential people saying the same thing. They may not be able to stop the ECB and BOJ today or in April, but accepted wisdom is changing and fast
There definitely is something going on in Germany. The party line has been to abhor negative rates, fiscal “excess” and stability pact flexibility. In essence, Gabriel said that the doctrinal insistence on austerity was not only hurting the rest of Europe but causing the very necessity for the ECB policies the government so hates
It’s not just a free exchange of ideas, context fans. Gabriel isn’t only a minister, as the headlines unfortunately all titled him. He’s Chairman of the major opposition SPD party. Germany has a coalition government: not to be forgotten as Chancellor Merkel’s popularity wanes
It’s strictly unofficial, but the 2017 German election campaign has begun in earnest. German policies will adjust, if marginally, to the necessities of politics. And just like every other global election these days, everyone, no matter the nationality, is going to verbalize an opinion
It does make me wonder just what the ECB might think they are trying to buy time for