Christian Wulff, president of Germany, abruptly quit his post in the midst of an escalating financial scandal, complicating the job of Chancellor Angela Merkel in negotiations over the eurozone debt crisis. Wulff may face charges of corruption as investigators seek to eliminate the immunity conferred by his office to probe allegations of corruption.
Bloomberg reported that Merkel must now seek an acceptable successor to Wulff, the second president to step down in less than two years, even as she is involved in discussions over Greece and its attempts to impose new austerity measures. Even though the position is mainly ceremonial, the fact that Wulff is from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, and that resigned amid her own waning popularity with voters over the debt crisis, is regarded as a major setback for her.
Wulff has been in office less than a year. He became president in a special election held last June 30 and replaced Horst Koehler, who unexpectedly resigned in May 2010.
Potential successor candidates include Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Bundestag President Norbert Lammert, as well as Joachim Gauck, a Protestant pastor and former East German dissident supported by Greens and the Social Democrats. Wulff only narrowly defeated Gauck, who was favored by the general public, on the third ballot at his election.
Wulff is suspected of improperly accepting favors, including illicit payments, vacations at the homes of business people and, during his term as state prime minister of Lower Saxony and a private home loan. There is also a question about a violation of capital market rules regarding the failed takeover bid of Porsche for Volkswagen, when Wulff served on Volkswagen’s supervisory board. German financial regulator BaFin (Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht) is reportedly reviewing the incident.