Newspaper article International New York Times

Resignations in Suspected Child Pornography Case Split Merkel's Coalition

Newspaper article International New York Times

Resignations in Suspected Child Pornography Case Split Merkel's Coalition

Article excerpt

Two men have become embroiled in a scandal: a lawmaker named in the case and a cabinet minister who revealed privileged information about him.

Italy has its chronic political turmoil, France a new chapter of presidential indiscretions, and Greece and Spain a seemingly unending stream of corruption cases. By comparison, Chancellor Angela Merkel has built a reputation for overseeing one of Europe's most disciplined, tightly run and squeaky clean governments.

So it came as a surprise last week that her inner circle, too, was afflicted by division and suspicion after the recent resignations of a prominent Social Democratic lawmaker and a conservative cabinet minister.

Both men have become embroiled in a scandal related to an investigation of suspected child pornography, with the lawmaker having been named in the case and the cabinet minister having revealed privileged information about him.

Coming just weeks into her third term, the affair has become a growing distraction as the chancellor tries to corral her broad coalition cabinet made up of both conservative allies and Socialist opponents.

On Wednesday, lawmakers summoned several people tied to the case to try to untangle a web of events that unfolded over the past week, a day after Ms. Merkel convened leaders of the parties in her coalition for two hours of talks aimed at restoring confidence.

"It is very much about trust in events and trust in the rule of law," Ms. Merkel told a news conference before the meeting on Tuesday. "It is, of course, also about trust within the coalition, and we know that a coalition can only carry out its job when we view one another with trust."

That trust has been strained as lawmakers spent recent days mired in finger-pointing and trying to untangle who knew what and when related to the scandal.

What is clear is that a Social Democratic deputy, Sebastian Edathy, announced his resignation suddenly on Feb. 7, citing health reasons. But a week later, prosecutors in Hanover made public evidence that Mr. …

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