Scandal-hit German president faces resignation calls

3rd January 2012, Comments 0 comments

German President Christian Wulff, an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, faced resignation calls on Tuesday over a home loan scandal and allegations he tried to hush up the story.

Wulff, 52, has been hit by accusations that he intervened to try to stop revelations by the mass circulation newspaper Bild last month over a personal loan he received from the wife of a tycoon friend.

He left a furious message on the voicemail of Bild's powerful editor Kai Diekmann threatening legal action and also reportedly contacted the chief executive of Bild's publishing house Axel Springer and its main shareholder.

Amid rising anger in the country at a perceived attack on the freedom of the press, the Financial Times Deutschland said he should step down from his office.

"On its own, it could perhaps be dismissed as a trifling matter, but there have been so many such trifles for Christian Wulff recently that it is becoming a worrying and slowly unbearable whole," the paper wrote.

"Everything taken together, it's slowly becoming too much ... his credibility has been hit by this plethora of mistakes. A man who is dragging around such a burden can no longer remain president," the FTD said.

The influential Sueddeutsche Zeitung chimed in, saying in an editorial: "This abuse of press freedom demonstrates that the job of president is too big for Wulff."

Merkel has thus far defended Wulff, but the Weser-Kurier regional daily said: "At some stage, the chancellor will have to make the cold calculation that his presence in the office is harming her and the country more than a second resignation."

Germany was rocked in May 2010 when then president Horst Koehler resigned suddenly, after appearing to suggest German troops abroad were defending Berlin's economic interests.

Merkel invested a great deal of political capital to push through Wulff's subsequent election, which turned into a debacle for her, as members of her own coalition broke ranks and refused to vote for him in parliament.

Wulff's spokeswoman said on Monday the president valued the freedom of the media highly and had sought to be transparent.

© 2012 AFP

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