In the aftermath of the German general election last weekend, we have been seeing heads rolling (metaphorically of course – no one is guillotining politicians) on a scale unseen since the French revolution. Victims so far include Philipp Rösler and Rainer Brüderle of the liberal party FDP, Peer Steinbrück of the Social Democratic Party SPD and Jürgen Trittin, Claudia Roth and Renate Künast of the Green Party (but not Katrin Göring-Eckardt, unfortunately).
So several major German political parties (I’m still including the FDP, even though they got kicked out of parliament) are already suffering from a leadership crisis. This is about the worst possible time for another political plagiarism scandal (just click on the “plagiarism” tag for discussions of earlier scandals). And yet it seems we’re in for another, because Frank Walter Steinmeier, one third of the leadership trio of the Social Democratic Party (the other two thirds are/were Peer Steinbrück who already resigned and Siegmar Gabriel), has been accused of plagiarising his doctoral thesis. Of course, we don’t know whether the accusations are justified and I haven’t seen any side by side comparisons yet. Still, this is bad news for a man who might well have been Germany’s next foreign secretary, a post he already held from 2005 to 2009.
I was quite shocked by this, because unlike previous political plagiarists Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg (still ranting in the New York Times, which obviously has no issues with plagiarists) or Silvana Koch Merin, Steinmeier never struck me as the type to do this.