Hamburg's First Mayor Ole von Beust announces the collapse of his administration.

Erster Bürgermeister
(First Mayor)
Rathausmarkt 1
20095 Hamburg

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This is an archived article published in December 2003
Hamburg's conservative government
collapses after another farce

Deutsche Welle reports: Shaky ever since a cabinet minister allegedly threatened to out Hamburg’s mayor as gay in August 2003, the city state’s centre-right coalition government collapsed on 9 December 2003. New elections are likely in February 2004.

Hamburg Mayor Ole von Beust, a Christian Democrat, said he could no longer rely on a majority in the city state's parliament. He added that continued infighting among party members of the coalition’s junior partner threatened the city’s image.

At the centre of the fall-out stands Ronald Schill, founder of the populist right-wing Schill Party who served as Hamburg’s interior minister until August 2003. Mr von Beust had dismissed the former judge after he allegedly threatened to disclose the mayor's homosexuality over a personnel dispute.

Mr Schill disappeared from the headlines for several months, but re-emerged recently when the Hamburg chapter of his party re-elected him as its leader. However, the national leadership subsequently deposed Ronald Schill who in turn threatened to depose national party leader Mario Mettbach, who also serves as Hamburg’s deputy mayor.

Though Hamburg Mayor von Beust said he was relaxed about the idea of entering a re-election campaign, opinion polls suggest the Social Democrats could regain power with the help of the Green Party. In 2001, Mr Schill’s unexpected success with voters had put Christian Democrats into office after more than 40 years of Social Democratic rule in the city.

After losing several state elections, a Hamburg victory would boost morale among Social Democrats and Greens. But they would not regain power in Germany’s upper legislative chamber, the Bundesrat, because Hamburg only has three votes in the 69-member body. The conservative states control 41 seats and are therefore able to block government proposals such as current plans to lower taxes and revamp Germany’s labour market.

Hamburg Mayor fires controversial
interior minister after gay allegation

Deutsche Welle reports: Hamburg's First Mayor (Erster Bürgermeister) Ole von Beust fired the city state's controversial interior minister Ronald Schill on Tuesday 19 August 2003. He said that 'law and order' man Schill had threatened to publicly out him as a homosexual.

"I have dismissed Mr Schill," the Mayor told reporters. "I felt forced to dismiss him because his character is not suited to the office of interior minister," he added.

The two men had met to discuss Mr Schill's deputy Walter Wellinghausen, who Mr von Beust also dismissed. Mr Wellinghausen, who had been Schill's attorney, has been accused of illegally continuing to collect pay in another capacity after he became privy counsellor. According to the Mayor, Mr Schill said the mayor had made his ostensible partner his justice minister and that the two had a homosexual relationship.

Relief was apparent after Mr Schill's sacking was announced. "For the police, it's the end of a nightmare," the head of the police trade union, Konrad Freiberg, said. "The DGB emphatically welcomes the fact that Ole von Beust dismissed Interior Minister Schill and his privy counsel Wellinghausen," German Trade Union Federation (DGB) regional head Erhard Pumm announced. Even representatives from Mr Schill's coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party, expressed relief, "We have absolutely no sympathy for Mr Schill's behaviour. We consider Mayor von Beust's actions appropriate."

Although Mr Schill disputed Mr von Beust's accusations, he said he now wished to retire from politics.

The dismissal may mark the end of a short but dramatic career in politics for the Hamburg judge. "Judge Merciless," as the German media dubbed him, first drew nationwide attention for the draconian sentences he handed down in the Hamburg court he presided over.

The ‘law-and-order’ man formed his own political party, the Schill Party, in July 2000 and took part in the September 2001 Hamburg elections. At the same time as fending off comparisons to Austria's rightwing politician Jörg Haider, Mr Schill called for sex offenders to be castrated, suspected drug dealers to be fed emetics to retrieve evidence and convicted foreigners to be deported.

Throughout the campaign he was haunted by the three-day jail sentence he had imposed on two young men in 1999 for disturbing court proceedings. A Hamburg court had already convicted Mr Schill of false imprisonment and perversion of justice based on accusations that he delayed a complaint made by the men.

But Mr Schill's hardline appealed to the Hamburg electorate. His party earned 19.4 per cent of the votes in the traditionally Social Democratic city, 25 of the 121 mandates. Suddenly the Schill Party had the chance to make-up part of the city's ruling coalition, which after more than three weeks of talks it did, along with the Christian Democrats and the Free Democrats. Mr Schill was named interior minister and deputy mayor, while two other party members headed up Hamburg ministries.

Hamburg Mayor Ole von Beust has been as good as his word, despite the risk that it could have meant the end for his three-way coalition. So far though, the ruling coalition is standing firm. After a meeting on Tuesday 19 August 2003, the three parties announced that their cooperation would continue uninterrupted.

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