Saxony-Anhalt: government fails due to data protection officer election – politics

The first moment of shock came in the Magdeburg state parliament on Thursday morning. The President of the State Parliament, Gunnar Schellenberger, had just opened the 28th session when his podium seat suddenly dropped. “Uaah,” the CDU politician exclaimed into the open microphone, “there it went, the chair.” Schellenberger quickly worked his way back up and just kept going, but it didn’t really get any easier. Half an hour later he had to announce that the state parliament had not succeeded in electing a data protection officer even after four years and the fifth attempt. He therefore states: “There is no prospect of success. For this reason I am hereby ending the procedure.”

What at first glance is a disaster for data protection is likely to become a stress test for the black-red-yellow Germany coalition at second glance. Because it was the CDU parliamentary group that gave the candidate a resounding defeat in the vote on Thursday. Albert Cohaus, who has been running the business of the state data protection officer on an interim basis for two years and can be described as professionally recognized, received a total of 16 yes votes. 51 MPs voted no, eleven abstained. 49 votes would have been necessary for the election, CDUSPD and FDP together have 56 seats, the CDU is the strongest parliamentary group with 40 seats.

“A breach without comparison”

In purely mathematical terms, CDU Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff could govern alone with the SPD, but he formed a tripartite alliance with the FDP in the summer of 2021 because he could not always be sure of the support of his extremely self-confident CDU faction. For example, not everyone there thinks the strict demarcation course for the AfD is correct. So far, however, the resistance has not been as open as it was on Thursday. At the beginning of the week, parliamentary group leader Guido Heuer signaled support for Cohaus: “I assume that we will elect a data protection officer,” he said on Monday.

On Wednesday, Heuer surprisingly declared that the vote in the CDU parliamentary group had been approved. So the second failure of Cohaus was practically certain. In March he was only three votes short of a majority, since then it has been speculated that parts of the CDU parliamentary group would rather see a party friend than an expert in office. The non-election of a data protection officer is already a tradition in Magdeburg: in 2018, the candidate from the then Kenya coalition failed to obtain the required majority three times.

The reactions on Thursday were correspondingly violent. “It makes me stunned,” said the Federal Data Protection Commissioner Ulrich Kelber Süddeutsche Zeitung: “This breach of the General Data Protection Regulation is unparalleled across the European Union.” It cannot be ruled out that the EU Commission will now initiate infringement proceedings against Germany.

The parliamentary director of the Greens parliamentary group, Sebastian Striegel, tweeted: “The fact that Prime Minister Haseloff looks on as his parliamentary group leader shreds the numerically extremely comfortable government majority is an impressive low point of leadershiplessness, even by CDU standards.” The coalition no longer creates anything: “Your majority is only enough to say no.” Left faction leader Eva von Angern spoke of an unacceptable debacle: “You should think about whether you are worthy of supporting a government.”

FDP and SPD were disappointed. SPD faction leader Katja Pähle said: “It is a tragedy that it is not possible in the state parliament of Saxony-Anhalt to elect a data protection officer like in all other state parliaments.” You will now look for solutions in the coalition. Cohaus himself was composed to the SZ: “You are there as an applicant between the political fronts”. He will continue to run the business on an interim basis. His retirement is scheduled for April 2025.

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