An Austrian MP has been ejected from the country’s ruling conservative party amid allegations of sexism after he implied that a German politician reached her position on “her knees”.
When asked over the weekend by a Twitter user how Berlin State Secretary Sawsan Chebli got her position, Efgani Dönmez responded: "Look at her knees, maybe you find an answer there".
The remark drew the ire of many social media users and politicians, including German Justice Minister Katarina Barley, who described the remarks as “disgusting and sexist”.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's People's Party (ÖVP) announced Dönmez’s dismissal on Monday, saying "sexist, offensive gaffes are not acceptable".
In a statement on Tuesday, Dönmez, who has since removed the tweet, said he “strongly” rejected allegations of sexism.
“With my tweet, I wanted to associate the obvious downfall of some politicians and parties in Europe with reactionary migrant organisations,” he wrote.
“There is a German saying ‘to go to his knees’ and I did not invent this saying, but it stands for losing his attitude and showing submission. I make it clear again that my words did not refer to sexual or sexist content. Often, the error is also in the eye of the beholder.”
Dönmez added that he understood in retrospect “that the wording was not suitable”, as he apologised to colleagues for the trouble he had caused.
The politician said he would “reluctantly but voluntarily leave the ÖVP parliamentary club”.
The ÖVP has been governing Austria since late last year in a coalition with the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ).