German state assembly dissolves in midst of Volkswagen scandal

The regional assembly of the second largest German state of Lower Saxony was dissolved on Monday following the collapse of governor Stephan Weil’s Social Democratic Party (SDP) government.

The motion was passed by 135 out of 136 attending delegates in Hannover, clearing the way for re-elections on Oct. 15. In the culmination of a series of scandals earlier this August, the ruling SPD-Greens coalition lost its narrow majority when Green party member Elke Twesten defected to the opposition CDU party three weeks ago.

While the SPD lashed out at the CDU for “harming democracy” with political intrigues, it struggled to deflect growing criticism of governor Weil for allegedly removing critical passages of an official speech about Volkswagen at the car makers behest.

The state of Lower Saxony’s owns more than 20 percent of the German automotive industry giant’s shares, meaning that its governors have a permanent seat on the Wolfsburg-based firm’s supervisory board.

Weil insists that although he showed Volkswagen a draft of the statement he made in the wake of revelations surrounding the diesel emission scandal, its critical tone was preserved.

The SPD politician has since released an original draft which supports his claim that Volkswagen was unsuccessful in manipulating the tone of the speech in its favor. Nevertheless, the CDU has vowed to take a tougher stance on the car maker if elected to government in October.

Responding to the incident, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) has called for the state of Lower Saxony to divest its shares entirely.

“The entanglement between corporations and government is a problem as we now see in Lower Saxony,” FDP national deputy leader Wolfgang Kubicki said.

After its formal dissolution, the regional assembly will remain politically active until the re-constitution following October elections.