BERLIN - Germany's education minister resigned on Saturday after being stripped of her doctorate for plagiarism, embarrassing Chancellor Angela Merkel and depriving her of a close ally in the run-up to a September election.
Annette Schavan quit four days after the University of Duesseldorf ruled she had "systematically and intentionally" copied parts of her thesis, and withdrew the Ph.D it had granted her more than 30 years ago.
It was the second time in two years that Merkel had lost a cabinet minister in a scandal over academic cheating. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned as defense minister in 2011 after being exposed for plagiarizing his thesis - behavior that Schavan condemned at the time as 'shameful'.
The chancellor, who rarely displays her emotions, turned to offer Schavan a consoling smile at a joint news conference where she told reporters: "I accepted this resignation with a very heavy heart."
Schavan's departure is unlikely to weaken Merkel's chances to win a third term in elections on September 22. Her Christian Democrats regularly poll above 40 percent, giving them an easy lead over the main opposition Social Democrats.
But losing her key confidante is still a blow to the German leader, and forces her to make her fifth cabinet change of the current four-year term by bringing in Johanna Wanka, a former education minister in two German states, to replace Schavan.