German President Chritian Wulff has resigned amid questions about possible corruption, a move that leaves Chancellor Angela Merkel – already under pressure from the eurozone debt crisis – scrambling for a replacement.
Wulff stepped down from the largely ceremonial post two months after the German newpaper Bild published a story alleging that while he was premier of Lower Saxony, he had failed to disclose his links to powerful businessman Egon Geerkens.
The newspaper said Wulff had taken a 500,000 euro ($650,000) loan at an unusually favorable rate from Geerkens’ wife in Oct. 2008 but failed to disclose the fact when he was asked about it in the regional parliament.
Although the story broke in December, Wulff resigned only Friday after another apparent revelation – that he and his wife had accepted an expensive hotel upgrade from a prominent film producer – and prosecutors for Parliament asked that his immunity from prosecution be lifted.
The BBC also reports that Wulff
was also heavily criticized for trying to force Bild not to break the story in the first place.
It has emerged that he left an angry message on Bild chief editor Kai Diekmann’s phone, saying the story must not be published.
Mr Wulff has since apologised to Mr Diekmann.
Merkel, who groomed Wulff for the post, which he assumed just two years ago, called off a trip to Rome to deal with the fallout.
From The Associated Press:
Merkel’s center-right coalition, which is prone to infighting, has only a wafer-thin majority in that assembly.
The chancellor quickly signaled she didn’t want to risk failing to get a candidate elected, saying the governing parties will consult among themselves and then immediately approach the opposition Social Democrats and Greens.
“We want to conduct talks with the aim, in this situation, of being able to propose a joint candidate for the election of the next German president,” Merkel told reporters.