On Friday 17th February, German President and Head of State Christian Wulff resigned over corruption allegations, a day after the public prosecutor in Hannover called for his immunity to prosecution to be lifted. In his resignation speech, Wulff stated that he had lost the confidence and trust of the German people, and therefore could no longer be a moral authority for the nation.
The controversy relates to a low-cost, undeclared loan that Wulff received from the wife of a friend, and his alleged acceptance of benefits, such as free holidays, from rich businessmen in return for political favours. He has also been criticised for his attempt to stop these issues becoming public. Now that he has stepped down, Wulff is no longer immune from prosecution, and could face jail if he is proved to have committed a crime.
The whole incident is rather embarrassing for Angela Merkel, and calls into question her judgement of character, as she personally selected Wulff to be President. In a statement she said that she respected but regretted his decision.
Until a successor can be found, Horst Seehofer, head of the German Bundesrat, has assumed the President’s responsibilities. German magazine Der Spiegel lists possible replacements as, amongst others, Bundestag President Norbert Lammert, Joachim Gauck, the former Federal Commissioner for the Stasi archives, who ran against Wulff in 2010, and Ursula von Leyen, minister for labour and social policy, who, if elected, would become Germany’s first female president.