Berlin (dpa) – She has always been considered the one who cares. As an advocate for children and adolescents, as the voice of the weakest, who rarely speak out – especially during the corona pandemic.
Now, Franziska Giffey (SPD) has quietly resigned and has asked Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) among her colleagues to resign. The Minister of Family, who likes to smile at the cameras, announced this in writing to the public on Wednesday – without images and without sound.
The affair of possible plagiarism in her thesis has reached a point where withdrawal seemed the only logical consequence. Although the process of re-examining the 2010 thesis is still underway, Giffey has until the beginning of June to comment on the report of an exam committee from the Free University of Berlin (FU). But the threat of doctorate withdrawal is in the room. Giffey had long announced her resignation in this case – and now apparently didn’t want to wait any longer.
Because the 43-year-old, who mainly owes her East German, more specifically Brandenburg, origins to her rise from mayor of the Berlin district of Neukölln to federal minister in 2018, has big plans after leaving the Bundesbühne. In Berlin she wants to become reigning mayor of Berlin in the autumn – if in doubt even without a doctorate, as she made clear early on. According to her resignation nothing will change.
“Close your eyes and on” is the motto of the Berlin SPD. Although it has led a red-red-green coalition since 2016 with Michael Müller as head of government, in surveys it is now clearly behind the Greens at 17 to 20 percent. Giffey, who has also been the SPD leader in the capital for some time, should be catching up. An alternative for her is not recognizable, so that demands such as the AfD or the CSU for dismissal as a top candidate come to nothing.
Giffey has been touring the city for months, always smiling and close to the people, despite the corona pandemic, which is “a matter of the heart,” as has been emphasized time and again. In doing so, she stages herself as a maker, relies on emotions in the election campaign. Words like “get it”, “roll up your sleeves”, “be careful” can be heard over and over again in their performances – and that people make mistakes too.
Against this background, voters hope to get her away with the faux pas with her thesis. “A good politician and a reigning mayor don’t need a doctorate, but a backbone,” said Cansel Kiziltepe, a member of the SPD Bundestag from Berlin.
The doctorate, which Giffey no longer holds since 2020, has in principle occupied her since she took office. And the annoying topic was almost off the table a long time ago: because in the fall of 2019 the FU decided that Giffey could keep her PhD and reprimanded her for shortcomings in her work. After much criticism, the FU rolled out the procedure again in 2020 and the report of the exam committee was recently available. The result is not officially known yet, the procedure will only be completed after Giffeys has given advice. The FU recently did not comment on a report from Business Insider, in which the committee recommends that the title be withdrawn.
Against this backdrop, Giffey now discovered that members of the federal government, their party, and the public had a right to clarity. “That is why I have decided to ask the Chancellor to be dismissed by the Federal President as Minister of Family, Seniors, Women and Youth.” At the same time, she makes it clear: “I stand by my statement that I wrote my work to the best of my knowledge and belief.” She regrets when she made mistakes.
Merkel took note of the move with “great regret” and respect. With Giffey, she loses the only East German woman next to her at the closet table. When Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will seal the seal, the decision is still open. Until then, Giffey will remain in office for the time being. The SPD no longer wants to fill the post four months before the federal elections. Minister of Justice Christine Lambrecht (SPD) should also take over.
Because Giffey will go after the work is done, says SPD party leader Rolf Mützenich. You have performed all your tasks from the coalition agreement. Some things stick in the memory because of particularly creative names: the strong family law or the good childcare law. She was also involved in the defensive democracy law.
Giffey is not the prime minister to land a PhD. In recent years, cases have repeatedly come to light of politicians who have not properly documented passages in their thesis. CDU Federal Education Minister Annette Schavan resigned after her doctorate was withdrawn in 2013. Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (CSU) met two years earlier.
It is unclear whether Giffey’s resignation from the SPD campaign before the federal election will do this damage. A minister who takes off her hat for a plagiarism affair is not shedding light on her party. On the other hand, the allegations against Giffey have been known for years.