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Late last week, German president Christian Wulff resigned in embarrassment and disgrace after his scandalous behavior came to light. The controversy caused the public to lose trust and faith in their president and turn on him. Wulff, 52, had previously enjoyed high ratings. “The last few weeks have shown… my ability to be effective has suffered sustained damage,” said Wulff.
Although the German president is largely a ceremonial role, it is supposed to provide the people with a moral compass, and this scandal has greatly hurt the office. The news is a major blow to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who handpicked Wulff for the position in June 2010.
Allegations surfaced in December, when newspapers began to look into an improper home loan he received from a family friend before he became president. Wulff became increasingly irate over these investigations and left a voicemail for one of the editors of Germany’s best-selling tabloids, ‘Bild’, saying it would mean “war” if the paper published a story on his financial past. ‘Bild’ decided in favor of publishing the story, and Wulff apologized for his unruly behavior.
The media continued to scrutinize his past dealings in the wake of this incident, with news of him accepting free upgrades on planes and staying at various hotels and inns without charge during travels with his family. Last week, prosecutors asked Parliament to put a stop to Wulff’s legal immunity over claims that he had received favors. Trying to investigate a German president is without precedent, and the move had opponents calling for his departure from office.
Merkel had remained loyal and sympathetic to Wulff during the past months’ controversies. Both belong to the same political party, the conservative Christian Democratic Union. She said she regretted his decision, canceling a visit to Rome to quell the outrage in her homeland. Merkel’s popularity among the people has not been affected by the scandal, but the controversy has served as a diversion on which she and her party can focus.
Wulff is the second president to resign in two years. Horst Koehler, Wulff’s precursor, left office without warning in 2010 after receiving heat for remarks he had made about German military in Afghanistan. Merkel stated she would talk to her opposition over who would be the next candidate, unlike last time. Until a consensus is reached, Horst Seehofer, the governor of the state of Bavaria and leader of the upper house of Parliament, will fill the role of acting president.
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