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Dublin: 6 °C Monday 20 January, 2020

German president Christian Wulff resigns over corruption scandal

Chancellor Angela Merkel has cancelled a trip to Italy to deal with the controversy

Wulff during a press conference today.
Wulff during a press conference today.
Image: Gero Breloer/AP/Press Association Images

GERMANY’S PRESIDENT CHRISTIAN Wulff has resigned after being engulfed by a corruption scandal.

Wulff had come under intense pressure in the past few days after details of a dubious home loan started to emerge. His apparent attempt to threaten or blackmail a German tabloid also led to his demise.

“The president, Mr Wulff, has decided that he is to step down and put the interests of the general public to the forefront,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a hastily-convened press conference. She cancelled a trip to Italy to deal with the fallout from the controversy.

According to BBC News, his resignation today came after prosecutors called for his immunity to be lifted. The Guardian reports that they claimed to have “factual indications” of improper ties to business executives.

Merkel said she accepted the resignation of the Head of State “with regret”. As a member of her Christian Democratic Union party, she had been her choice for the position in 2010.

Wulff spoke about losing the trust of the German people as he had made “mistakes”. However, the 52-year-old insisted he never acted outside the law.

The federal president “no longer sees himself able to exercise his office”, added Merkel.

The political parties that support the government, are going to consult and discuss – and approach the other parties in the parliament – and see which candidate we can agree upon to be the next federal president of the Federal Republic of Germany.”

Germany appoints a ‘federal convention’ solely to appoint the President – it has 1,240 members, with half of them from the Bundestag and the other half nominated by each of the 16 states, which put forward nominees proportionally based on their population.

The Convention must be assembled within 30 days of Wulff’s resignation. The President’s term of office is five years.

Similar to Ireland, the role comes with little power and is generally seen as a more ceremonial position.

Details of the large loan – received from a wealthy friend’s wife – came out in December. In January, before the Bild newspaper reported the story, he called the editor in a fury and allegedly tried to blackmail him to stop the article being published.

However, prosecutors want to investigate his relationship with David Groenewold. They believe he took freebies from the film producer whose firm received a loan guarantee from the Lower Saxony government when Wulff was governor there.

-Additional reporting by Gavan Reilly

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