Premier of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) Armin Laschet, who hopes to succeed party ally Angela Merkel as the next chancellor of Germany this fall, has been forced to apologize for plagiarizing another author’s work.
Laschet made the apology on Friday, saying that his 2009 book “Die Aufstiegsrepublik” (The Upwardly Mobile Republic), written when he was NRW’s integration minister, “clearly contains mistakes that I am responsible for.”
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) candidate went on to say, “I would like to expressly apologize, because care in composing texts and the observation of copyrights are for me, among other things, a question of respect toward other authors.”
Laschet also promised that he had arranged for, “an immediate audit of the book.”
At the age of 40, Annalena Baerbock has been co-chair of the Greens since 2018. A jurist with a degree in public international law from the London School of Economics, her supporters see her as a safe pair of hands with a good grasp of detail. Her opponents point to her lack of governing experience.
Armin Laschet is the national party chairman of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and serves as premier of Germany’s most populous state. Conservatives routinely underestimated the jovial 60-year-old, who is famous for his belief in integration and compromise. But, recently, his liberal noninterventionist instincts have led to him eating his words more than once during the coronavirus pandemic.
Plumbing new depths with each election, the Social Democrats (SPD) decided to run a realist rather than a radical as their top candidate in 2021. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, a former mayor of Hamburg, and Merkel’s deputy in the grand coalition, is seen as dry and technocratic. Many in his party say the 62-year-old is unlikely to energize party activists and win their hearts.
The 42-year-old media-savvy Christian Lindner joined the Free Democrats (FDP) at the age of just 16 and has headed the party since 2013. The reserve officer and son of a teacher comes from North Rhine-Westphalia and studied political science. He hopes to join a ruling coalition after the September election, and the conservative CDU/CSU is his declared preference.
The 63-year-old Dietmar Bartsch and 39-year-old Janine Wissler complement each other. Bartsch is from East Germany, a pragmatist who has led his parliamentary party since 2015. Far-left Wisseler hails from western Germany and has been the party’s co-chair since February. She represents the Left’s more radical positions, such as the immediate end to military missions abroad and all weapons exports.
Co-chair Tino Chrupalla, 46, joined the Alternative for Germany (AfD) in 2015, attracted to its anti-immigration platform. The painter and decorator from Saxony has been an MP since 2017 and backs the extreme-right wing, but urges moderate campaign language. Alice Weidel, a 42-year-old economist, is the co-head of the AfD in the Bundestag. AfD members have accused her of not pulling her weight.
The issue came to the fore late Thursday, when plagiarism expert Martin Heidingsfelder tweeted a comparison of two text passages, one from Laschet’s book and another from Karsten Weitzenegger, a sustainable development adviser.
Heidingsfelder says he sent a detailed questionnaire to Laschet on Thursday afternoon and by Friday had received answers to many of his queries. Heidingsfelder said he saw no need to further scour Laschet’s book after the politician promised a thorough exam of it himself.
For his part, Karsten Weitzenegger published a number of tweets addressing the issue, first criticizing the candidate, saying “Laschet used to pay attention to science, but now only engages in populist immigration policies.”
Weitzenegger says he would be happy if Laschet would actually act on the immigration ideas that he plagiarized.
Over the years, a number of German politicians have been forced to admit to similar practices either in writing commercial books or academic dissertations. Many have had to forfeit academic titles and some have even stepped down from office as a result.
Most recently, Green Party chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock had to admit to using text in a book from sources she did not cite — neither in her text, nor in footnotes.
Though Laschet is widely considered the odds-on-favorite to beat his Green Party and Social Democratic challengers to replace Merkel — who is not running for a fifth term in office — when German voters head to the polls on September 26, his personal approval ratings have continued to wane.
Friday’s apology was Laschet’s second in as many weeks.
Not much to laugh about this week as Laschet is forced to apologize again for missteps
Last week, the chancellory hopeful was seen cracking jokes and laughing boisterously as he stood behind German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was delivering somber remarks to flood victims in NRW.
Laschet apologized for his inappropriate behavior after the video went viral on social media and was picked up by German and international media outlets.
js/nm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)