Reactions to Wulff Resignation Germany Breathes a Sigh of Relief
Leading politicians in Germany reacted with relief to the news of German President Christian Wulff's resignation. Many spoke of an overdue move that had only come after the politician had already damaged the nation's highest office. But many also expressed their "respect" for Wulff's work.
The resignation of Germany's youngest-ever president, who at the same time had the shortest term in office, was received with relief throughout much of the country on Friday.
While opposition politicians spoke almost in the same tone about an overdue step and said the Office of the President has been damaged, coalition partners from the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) expressed their respect for Christian Wulff. Following a scandal over allegations he had accepted favors as a former state governor, Wulff resigned from his office as federal president shortly after 11 a.m.
Many commentators looked to the future and spoke about a new presidential candidate who can be supported by all parties. The FDP, above all, is sticking to its position that the ruling coalition should put forth its own candidate. SPIEGEL ONLINE has collected reactions to Wulff's resignation from politicians and social leaders across Germany.
Sigmar Gabriel, head of the opposition, center-left Social Democratic Party, labels the step as overdue: "He prevented the office from being subjected to even more damage than it already has." The Social Democrat called for a "new beginning for Germany."
Claudia Roth, the co-chair of the Green Party, criticized Wulff's resignation speech. "Even when he resigns, Christian Wulff shows that he's not reasonable," she said. While he admitted mistakes, he still insisted he had been honest, she said. His successor must achieve "what Mr. Wulff was no longer able to accomplish, namely to represent this country both domestically and abroad in a democratic way," Roth said. In a joint statement, Green Party parliamentary leaders Renate Künast and Jürgen Trittin urged Chancellor Angela Merkel of the CDU to invite leaders of the parties in the Bundestag to a discussion "to explore the possibility of choosing the most broadly supported new federal president possible."
Horst Seehofer, the head of the Christian Social Union party, the CDU's Bavarian sister party, gave Wulff his "undivided respect." He said, "with this move, Wulff puts the dignity and meaning of the state's highest office in first place." Seehofer has been appointed as the interim president until a successor can be found. "No one hoped for this unfortunate course of events. But everyone is now called upon to correct this situation and to negotiate with respect for the presidential office in mind."
CSU state group chief Gerda Hasselfeldt thanked Wulff. He "gave Germany a modern, cosmopolitan and tolerant face at home and abroad," she said. Hasselfeldt called for calm when choosing Wulff's successor. "We would do well to look for a suitable candidate in a calm manner," the parliamentary representative said.
Left Party chief Gregor Gysi said his party is not going to give Wulff "a kick after" the fact. He believes "Mr. Wulff would have been well advised to have stepped down earlier." Then it wouldn't have come to this damage to the office.
FDP Chairman Philipp Rösler accepted the resignation with "great respect." Wulff drew the necessary consequences from this "difficult situation," Rösler said. "We thank Christian Wulff for his work as president."
Germany's church leaders also commented on Wulff's decision. The chairman of the Council of the Protestant Church in Germany, Nikolaus Schneider, called the resignation "consistent and also liberating." The office of the head of state regains its ability to maneuver, he said. Schneider also added that "the question of guilt or innocence has not been answered by the resignation. This task is up to the judiciary."
The chairman of the German Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church, Robert Zollitsch, assessed Wulff's resignation as "an important step to protect his high office and himself." I give him respect for this step, the Archbishop of Freiburg said. He also thanked Wulff for his "widespread engagement for the good of our country and for valuable ideas that he provided."
The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, expressly praised the work of the resigned president. In a statement, Graumann acknowledged the resignation with "respect, recognition and regret." On behalf of the Jewish community in Germany, he thanked Wulff for his friendly ties.
The chairman of the Pirate Party in Wulff's home state of Lower Saxony, Andrew Neugebauer, accused Wulff of having effectively damaged confidence in politics. "Mr. Wulff lacked any sense of when it is time to go in order to prevent doing harm to the country's highest office."
The leader of the Green Party in Lower Saxony, Stefan Wenzel, who sharply attacked Wulff several weeks ago, said the resignation was inevitable. "Mr. Wulff is leaving a mess behind him," Wenzel said.
Even the manager of the annual Carnival festivities in Mainz responded quickly and changed a float for the carnival procession on Monday (Rosenmontag). Wulff will be shown on a float as a beaten up head of state in a boxing ring. We're going to change the word "stricken" to "k.o.," for "knocked-out," the float builder for the Mainz Carnival Association said.
mew -- with wires