BERLIN - German Chancellor Angela Merkel quickly replaced popular defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg on Wednesday, hoping to put his plagiarism affair behind her to focus on three state elections.
Merkel told a news conference that interior minister Thomas de Maiziere would take over the defense portfolio and Hans-Peter Friedrich, the parliamentary leader for the Christian Social Union (CSU), would succeed de Maiziere as interior minister.
"It's important to quickly show clarity and our ability to act," Merkel said of the changes that were announced faster than expected. "It's right, it's good and helpful that this quickly answers the questions that you would otherwise be asking us."
Guttenberg quit on Tuesday after admitting to copying part of a doctoral dissertation, stunning Merkel and depriving her conservatives of their brightest star ahead of three important regional elections in late March.