German President Christian Wulff stepped down from his post today, after a court stripped him of his immunity from being investigated for corruption.
Wulff is a member of the governing centre-right Christian Democratic Party (CDU) and an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Yesterday, a court asked the German legislature to remove the president’s immunity from prosecution after it found “sufficient evidence” of wrongdoing, as reported by the BBC. Wulff is accused of traffic of influence, suspected of having accepted a controversial loan from the wife of a wealthy man to buy his home while he was serving as premier of Lower Saxony.
The presidential figure in Germany is mostly ceremonial. The president is not elected by popular vote, but by a “Federal Convention” (Deutsche Welle describes that here). But this is inevitably seen as a blow to Chancellor Merkel, who supported Wulff’s election two years ago and has defended him during the scandal.
Merkel can’t afford any distractions now. Her popularity has been sagging and she is facing unrest. She is juggling her job as Germany’s head of state with the more complex role of trying to save the European Union from collapse amidst the worst economic crisis of its history.