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Tuesday, 30 November, 1999, 20:51 GMT
Analysis: Kohl under fire
Kohl Mr Kohl arrives to face questions from his party

By European Affairs analyst William Horsley

The admission by the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl that he approved the use of secret bank accounts to keep political slush funds for many years threatens both his own reputation and that of his party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

The former German leader was ousted from power in elections little more than one year ago, but is now the CDU's honorary chairman.

He has denied any suggestion of bribery arising from the disclosure that his party took a large secret donation from an arms dealer in 1991.

During his 25 years as its chairman, Helmut Kohl kept an iron grip on his own party. He was renowned for his huge network of personal allies in the CDU, which enabled him to stay on as leader long after some others in the party would have liked.

Yet he managed to present the image of a man who was personally incorruptible, and aloof from every scandal. In part he did so by intimidating those he dealt with in politics and the media.

Unanswered questions

Now that picture is being suddenly changed. So far Mr Kohl has admitted only a lack of transparency in the way he approved a number of secret party bank accounts.

ade

The breaking of the scandal reflects the end of Mr Kohl's personal domination of his party.
William Horsley
But German prosecutors have unearthed potentially criminal aspects of at least one donation - the payment to the CDU of $500,000 in 1991, allegedly as a bribe in return for an arms deal, the sale of German tanks to Saudi Arabia.

Many questions remain unanswered. The breaking of the scandal now reflects the end of Mr Kohl's personal domination of his party.

It was one of his bitterest internal party rivals, the former secretary-general Heiner Geissler, who first confirmed reports about the secret accounts.

Now that Helmut Kohl's powers of patronage are all but over, other figures may also prove less than loyal to their former boss.

In Germany very damaging scandals are rare, and it is rarer still for them to ruin big careers.

But throughout the 1990s, dark rumours circulated in Bonn about large sums of money from murky arms deals flowing to the hands of political figures.

Reputation

The CDU now stands to lose part of its commanding lead in opinion polls over Chancellor Schroeder's beleaguered centre-left government.

The scandal will damage its chances of defeating the Social Democrats in two important regional elections in the New Year, in Schleswig-Holstein and North-Rhine Westfalia.

And Helmut Kohl faces a struggle to prevent his reputation as one of Germany's great post-war leaders from being damaged, perhaps badly, by this scandal.
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See also:
30 Nov 99 |  Europe
Kohl donations scandal grows
30 Nov 99 |  Europe
Kohl's statement: 'I reject all allegations'
 |  Europe
Kohl's mark on history
26 Nov 99 |  Europe
Scandals hit German politics

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