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German education minister quits in plagiarism case

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 9, 2013 at 2:34 pm •  Published: February 9, 2013

Doctorates are highly prized in Germany, where it is not unusual for people to insist on being referred to by their full academic title. Reflecting that tradition, Merkel — herself a doctor, as are several of her senior ministers — referred to Schavan's successor by her full academic title, "Prof. Dr. Johanna Wanka."

Despite the coalition government's setback in Lower Saxony, in northwestern Germany, polls show that Merkel remains popular with voters; her challenger from the center-left Social Democrats, Peer Steinbrueck, has struggled so far to gain traction.

Most recent polls show a majority neither for Merkel's current center-right coalition with the struggling pro-market Free Democrats nor for a rival combination of the Social Democrats and Greens.

They show Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats as the strongest single party. That suggests the chancellor may be able to carry on with a new coalition partner.

It's also unclear that the Schavan affair will provide much political ammunition for the opposition.

The usually low-profile minister's troubles over her 3-decade-old thesis have drawn a much more measured response from opponents than in the case of Guttenberg, a rising conservative star at the time he quit.

"It is tragic for Annette Schavan's political career to end this way, but the resignation is an act of political consistency," Social Democratic parliamentary chief whip Thomas Oppermann said.

"This year could not have started worse for Mrs. Merkel," he said.

The German Association of University Professors and Lecturers welcomed Schavan's decision to go.

Its chairman, Bernhard Kempen, said the resignation was "necessary and logical" since Schavan, although she is entitled to appeal, was damaged as a minister by the decision to revoke her doctorate.