German president resigns without warning

Posted May 31, 2010 by Riccardo Valsecchi
Germany's president Horst Köhler resigned after opponents criticized his remarks about the economic importance of military missions for the German economy.
President of Germany  in office: 1 July 2004 – 31 May 2010.
President of Germany, in office: 1 July 2004 – 31 May 2010.
On May 31, Germany's president Horst Köhler resigned suddenly. His decision came after criticism of remarks in which he suggested military deployments in Afghanistan were central to the country's economic interests.
In a radio interview after a tour of German military bases in Afghanistan, Köhler, 67, said:
"The largely pacifist German public was finally coming to terms with the concept that their country could no longer avoid involvement in military missions, which helped protect our interests, for example, free trade routes, or to prevent regional instability, which might certainly have a negative effect on our trade, jobs and income."
The remarks were seized upon Die Linke and SPD, the German left parties, who accused Köhler of betraying the German soldiers who are currently stationed in Afghanistan.
Jürgen Trittin, the leader of the Green Party, said Köhler's comments were against Germany's constitution and many voices from his own party, the CDU, also disagreed with him.
Köhler's office said his comments had been misinterpreted. Even though the radio journalist's question had been about Afghanistan, the president had not been referring to Afghanistan in his reply, but to the deployment of German military to the Indian Ocean to help keep shipping lanes free of Somalian pirates.
Köhler's decision is the first time in post-war German history that a president has resigned with immediate effect. An election for a new president is due to take place within the next month.
Merkel said she "deeply regretted" Köhler's resignation, and admitted it had come as a huge surprise to her.