Theme Park Scandal German State Governor Expected to Resign Friday

Rhineland-Palatinate Governor Kurt Beck is expected to step down on Friday evening, according to media reports. The veteran Social Democratic politician has been under pressure because of a theme park debacle that has cost the state hundreds of millions of euros.

Rhineland-Palatinate Governor Kurt Beck (seen here at a 2006 museum event in Speyer) is expected to step down on Friday evening.

Rhineland-Palatinate Governor Kurt Beck (seen here at a 2006 museum event in Speyer) is expected to step down on Friday evening.

Kurt Beck is Germany's longest-serving state governor, having held that position in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate since 1994. But now he is about to step down, according to media reports.

The German regional public broadcaster SWR reported on Friday morning, citing reliable sources, that Beck will announce his resignation as state governor on Friday evening. Beck will also resign as head of the state chapter of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD). The news agency DAPD also published a similar report.

Beck has been under pressure for weeks over the bankruptcy of the Nürburgring motorsports complex in Rhineland-Palatinate, one of the world's most famous race tracks. The state-owned firm which owns the complex was forced to apply for bankruptcy in July of this year, leaving Rhineland-Palatinate with over €330 million in debt.

The race track had operated at a loss for years, frequently requiring millions of euros in both direct and indirect state aid to survive. The park's most serious troubles began in 2004 when it began building a year-round amusement park and hotel complex that has only been partially completed and has so far been a commercial failure. The theme park, complete with rollercoaster, discos and a four-star hotel, was supposed to help the economy in the economically underdeveloped Eifel region.

Beck is seen as being largely responsible for the debacle because the SPD in the state had pushed for the project. Although Beck has apologized for mistakes made in connection with the construction of the theme park, he had so far ruled out stepping down. Rumors of a resignation have been circulating since March, however.

According to broadcaster SWR, Rhineland-Palatinate Interior Minister Roger Lewentz and Social Affairs Minister Malu Dreyer are regarded as the favorites for becoming Beck's successors. One of them is expected to become state governor, while the other would become leader of the SPD in the state.

dgs -- with wire reports

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