German President Wulff Quits Amid Legal Probe
Bloomberg: German President Christian Wulff resigned amid the threat of a legal probe into corruption allegations, delivering a blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel that risks distracting her from the euro-region debt crisis.
Wulff is the second German president to quit in less than two years, forcing Merkel to find a fresh candidate from among her allies for the largely ceremonial post. The chancellor canceled a planned trip to Rome today where she was due to hold talks on the debt crisis with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti. She will make a statement at 11:30 a.m. Berlin time.
“I have made mistakes but I have always been sincere,” acting correctly in office, Wulff told reporters at the presidential palace in Berlin today. He said he will step down with immediate effect.
Wulff, 52, a former deputy leader of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, was picked by the chancellor to replace the previous incumbent, Horst Koehler, after Koehler’s surprise resignation in May 2010. Wulff was elected by a special national assembly on June 30.
His term in office was mostly confined to representing Germany overseas until allegations relating to a private home loan during his time as state prime minister of Lower Saxony were aired in Germany’s best-selling Bild newspaper on Dec. 13, then followed up in Der Spiegel magazine. Within days, he was facing growing scrutiny of his financial affairs including vacations at the homes of business people and calls from the opposition to quit.
Prosecutors in Lower Saxony, which Wulff governed from 2003 to 2010, have submitted a request to the lower house of parliament to have the president’s immunity lifted as they seek to start a formal investigation into allegations he accepted illicit favors. They want to open an official probe after finding “initial evidence to suppose” the acceptance of benefits, the prosecutor’s office in the state capital of Hanover said in a statement on its website today.
His resignation “is a huge setback for Merkel,” Gerd Langguth, a Merkel biographer and political scientist at the University of Bonn, said in a phone interview. “No one could have imagined the extent of this. No one could have imagined that this would take on such dimensions.”
reporters on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin,Karin Matussek in Berlin