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Germany’s Social Democrats fail again to expel ex-chancellor over Putin ties

Members of Germany's ruling Social Democrats (SPD) have failed in a last-ditch bid to expel former chancellor Gerhard Schröder over his close ties to Russia, the party said on Thursday.

Former chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD), at a hearing of the Bundestag's Economics Committee on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project in 2020.
Former chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD), at a hearing of the Bundestag's Economics Committee on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project in 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

The SPD’s Hanover branch has rejected an appeal by several other local party chapters against a decision last year to allow Schröder to remain in the party.

The appeals commission upheld a ruling in August by the Hanover chapter that Schröder, whose party membership falls under its umbrella, was “not guilty of a violation of the party rules, as no violation can be proven against him”.

Schröder, chancellor from 1998 to 2005, has refused to turn his back on Russian President Vladimir Putin despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

His stance has made him an embarrassment to the SPD, which is also the party of current Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The party executive on Thursday said it had “taken note” of the decision in Hanover.

READ ALSO: Germany’s SPD moves to expel Gerhard Schröder

“This legal decision does not change the fact that Gerhard Schröder is politically isolated in the SPD with his positions on Russia,” it said.

In an interview with Stern magazine, Schröder himself said he was “not surprised” by the decision, calling it “legally solid” and “politically consistent”.

The SPD branches seeking Schröder’s expulsion could in theory still appeal to the party’s national arbitration commission.

However, it is considered unlikely that another appeal will be allowed after the two decisions in Schröder’s favour.

Schröder was widely criticised after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for refusing to condemn Moscow as well as for lding a number of lucrative posts at Russian energy giants.

It was only after much public pressure that he gave up his seat on the board of Russian energy group Rosneft last year.

Germany has removed some of the perks Schröder was entitled to as an elder statesman, stripping him of an office and staff.

READ ALSO: Germany strips Schröder of official perks over links to Russia

The 78-year-old, who was the immediate predecessor to Angela Merkel, met with Putin in Moscow last July.

In an interview after the visit, he claimed Russia wanted a “negotiated solution” to the war – comments branded as “disgusting” by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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POLITICS

Germany’s AfD bans scandal-hit lead candidate from EU election events

Germany's AfD party on Wednesday banned its leading candidate from appearing at EU election campaign events, after France's main far-right party announced a split with the Germans over a slew of scandals involving the politician.

Germany's AfD bans scandal-hit lead candidate from EU election events

After a crisis meeting with the AfD’s top brass, Maximilian Krah, who is being investigated for suspicious links to Russia and China, said he will also leave the party’s federal steering committee.

“The last thing that we need now is a debate about me. The AfD must keep its unity,” Krah told Welt newspaper.

“For this reason, I will not make any further campaign appearances and will step down as a member of the federal committee.”

The anti-immigration party has been battling to draw a line under a series of controversies over the last weeks that have sent its popularity ratings sliding.

READ ALSO: How spying scandal has rocked troubled German far-right party

Krah is at the centre of a deepening crisis after one of his aides in the European Parliament was arrested on suspicion of spying for China.

Krah and another AfD candidate for the EU elections, Petr Bystron, have also been forced to deny allegations they accepted money to spread pro-Russian positions on a Moscow-financed news website.

But German prosecutors have launched a preliminary investigation against Krah himself over reports of suspicious payments received from China and Russia.

The bad news for the AfD piled up further on Tuesday when France’s National Rally announced it “decided to no longer sit with” AfD deputies in the EU parliament.

The RN said it was going to create some distance from the AfD after Krah, in a weekend interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica, said that someone who had been a member of the SS paramilitary force in Nazi Germany was “not automatically a criminal”.

The RN and AfD had been the key members of an EU parliament group called Identity and Democracy that also included several other European far-right parties.

READ ALSO: What’s at stake in Germany’s European election vote?

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