German President Horst Köhler has resigned in the wake of controversial comments he made upon returning from a trip to Afghanistan. Via Spiegel:
In an interview with a German radio reporter who accompanied him on the trip, he seemed to justify his country’s military missions abroad with the need to protect economic interests.
“A country of our size, with its focus on exports and thus reliance on foreign trade, must be aware that … military deployments are necessary in an emergency to protect our interests — for example when it comes to trade routes, for example when it comes to preventing regional instabilities that could negatively influence our trade, jobs and incomes,” Köhler said.
It sounded as though Köhler was justifying wars for the sake of economic interests, in the context of the Afghan mission which is highly controversial in Germany and throughout Europe.
Regarding the resignation:
In his statement on Monday, Köhler said: “My comments about foreign missions by the Bundeswehr on May 22 this year met with heavy criticism. I regret that my comments led to misunderstandings in a question so important and difficult for our nation. But the criticism has gone as far as to accuse me of supporting Bundeswehr missions that are not covered by the constitution. This criticism is devoid of any justification. It lacks the necessary respect for my office.”
So, today’s questions are: How often in the past have presidents in parliamentary systems (where they are mostly ceremonial) resigned due to controversy? How often do they even say things that could stir up controversy?
So now the Federal Assembly (Germany’s electoral college, made up of parliamentary and state delegates) will have to elect a successor.
(Hat tip to Bancki, in the thread on Köhler’s reelection a year ago.)