German president's mea culpa fails to convince: press

5th January 2012, Comments 0 comments

A televised mea culpa by Germany's scandal-hit president failed to convince editorialists Thursday who deemed he would hold on to his job for now but had deeply damaged the ceremonial office.

Christian Wulff, 52, held up his hands in a 20-minute interview on public television late Wednesday to having made a "serious mistake" in angrily calling a national newspaper editor ahead of the publication of a damaging story.

But he said that he had felt like a "victim" on hearing during an official overseas trip that Bild daily was running an article about his low-interest home loan from a tycoon friend's wife.

And he vowed to stay on in the job he assumed in 2010 with, at the time, strong backing of Chancellor Angela Merkel but which he only secured in a humiliatingly hard-fought third round of voting.

Under the headline "A Wasted Chance", the mass circulation newspaper Bild that has been at the centre of the three-week-long series of scandals said Wulff's appearance had not saved him.

He "wasted a further, possibly last chance to continue his time in office with dignity", it said.

"The office (of president) will however need years until it recovers. And the affair is not yet over," it added disparagingly.

For its part, the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung said that while one of the president's constitutional roles was to grant pardons, Wulff, who said he was "human and one makes mistakes", was the first president to pardon himself.

Asking how could restore the gravitas of the position, it said however: "Wulff apparently trusts in the fact that he himself can do that. He stands rather alone in this confidence."

News weekly Der Spiegel said in its online edition that it was well-known that no political leader wanted a new presidential election. "Too troublesome, too irritating, too big is the danger of failure for them," it said.

"Therefore Wulff is allowed to stay. For now."

Forsa polling institute head Manfred Guellner told the Hanover-based Neue Presse paper he believed that the revelations about the president had "harmed the office".

According to a poll published Thursday but conducted before the interview was broadcast, 50 percent of those questioned said he should step down while 47 percent believe he can stay in office.

© 2012 AFP

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