West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl tried Tuesday to calm a political uproar in his Christian Democratic Party by naming a popular member of Parliament, Volker Ruehe, as his choice for party general secretary.
The tempest was churned up Monday when Kohl told the incumbent general secretary, Heinz Geissler, that his services were not wanted as chief strategist for next year's national election campaign.
Kohl, as chairman, is the party's overall leader. The general secretary deals with administrative matters and charts electoral tactics. Kohl's replacement of Geissler must be voted on at next month's party convention.
Geissler, 59, who had been general secretary since 1977, was generally credited with trying over the past year to move the Christian Democrats somewhat to the left in order to attract younger voters and voters from the opposition Social Democratic Party.
Yet, the Christian Democrats have done poorly in local and regional elections this year, as well as in elections for the European Parliament. They have lost votes to the far-right Republican Party.
Critics of Kohl, notably members of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian branch of his party, argue that the move to the left cost the Christian Democrats votes among their more conservative supporters.
Kohl was widely criticized Tuesday for dumping Geissler in order to appeal to people on the right. The Social Democratic general secretary, Anke Fuchs, said that Geissler "was sacrificed to the republicans."
Kohl denied this, however, declaring Tuesday that "this has nothing to do with a change of policy."
Some observers say that Kohl has resented Geissler's challenge to his authority and was not prepared to go into an election year with him as general secretary.
Geissler did not leave quietly. He told a news conference: "Against the wishes of the party, Kohl rejected my offer of loyal cooperation."
He denied that he is responsible for this year's electoral defeats and said it is Kohl's image that is to blame. In addition, he warned the party against "selling its soul to pick up a few percentage points in the opinion polls."
But some commentators suggested that Geissler had been sniping at Kohl for months and that Kohl had shown a rare decisiveness in dropping Geissler.
Ruehe, 46, has served for 13 years in Parliament and is regarded as having special expertise in foreign affairs. But he has little experience in party affairs and campaign management.