Federal ministers must exercise restraint in disputes between parties, Germany’s Constitutional Court has ruled. The complaint against Education Minister Johanna Wanka was brought by the far-right opposition AfD party.
Education Minister Johanna Wanka acted unconstitutionally when her ministry called for a “red card” boycott of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in 2015, Germany’s highest court ruled on Tuesday in the city of Karlsruhe.
Judges said Wanka, who is a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), breached the rule that cabinet ministers must be neutral in how they treat all political parties.
Constitutional Court president Andreas Vosskuhle also noted that it is not the role of government agencies to encourage citizens to either boycott or take part in demonstrations.
AfD party head Alexander Gauland praised the court’s ruling, saying: “Thank God there are still judges in Karlsruhe.” Co-head Jörg Meuthen said the decision “should be a lesson for other government ministers.”
Red card over ministry statement
The case dates back to the height of Germany’s crisis over hundreds of thousands of refugee arrivals. At the time, AfD supporters called for a “red card” demonstration in Berlin to protest Merkel’s migration policy.
In response, Wanka said in an Education Ministry press statement: “The red card should be shown against the AfD and not against the federal chancellor.”
Some senior AfD politicians and grassroots members have been criticized for making racist and anti-Semitic comments since the party was founded in 2013.
The AfD in turn submitted an urgent petition to the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, resulting in the Education Ministry being required to remove her statement from its website.
Read more: Bundestag slams far-right AfD, reaffirms Holocaust remembrance
AfD now in federal parliament
Back in 2015, the AfD held opposition seats in numerous regional assemblies. In last September’s federal election, it entered the federal Bundestag parliament, becoming the largest opposition grouping.
Under a part Cabinet line-up announced by Merkel on Monday, Wanka, 57, who some time ago intimated her exit from Cabinet, would be replaced as education minister by CDU newcomer Anja Karliczek, 46.
Wanka in profile
Wanka originates from Saxony in former communist East Germany (GDR). She studied mathematics in Leipzig and received her doctorate in 1980.
During the peaceful uprising in 1989 she helped found a citizens’ opposition group in Merseburg, where in 1994, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, she became rector of Merseburg’s university of applied science.
From 2010 until 2013 she was regional minister for science and culture in Hannover, the capital of Germany’s northern state of Lower Saxony.
Wanka was brought into Merkel’s Cabinet in 2013 after the resignation of Annette Schavan over plagiarism in her 1980 doctorate.
rs, ipj/kms (dpa, AFP, Reuters)