Merkel backs German president amid scandal
BERLIN - Reuters
German Chancellor Angela Merkel poses for photographs after the recording of her annual New Year's speech at the Chancellery in Berlin December 30, 2011. REUTERS PhotoGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel gave her backing on Wednesday to President Christian Wulff who has faced growing pressure to resign for trying to get Germany's top-selling newspaper to kill an embarrassing story on a home loan scandal.
"The chancellor has full confidence that the President will comprehensively answer all remaining questions," deputy government spokesman Georg Streiter told a news conference, adding that Merkel valued the president's work.
The scandal is becoming a major distraction for Merkel as she tries to focus on solving the euro zone debt crisis. Critics say it reflects badly on her judgement as she pushed for Wulff's election in 2010 over a popular opposition candidate.
Were Wulff forced to step down, she would face the difficult task of finding a successor and rallying her centre-right coalition behind a new candidate, a process that could take weeks and might expose new cracks in her government.
But it is also unclear how long she can stand by Wulff given the outrage in Germany over his conduct.
Wulff's office said he would break his silence on the matter and give a television interview later on Wednesday. This is widely seen as an effort by the president, an affable, conservative career politician, to draw a line under the affair that has triggered calls for his resignation.
Wulff's trouble started last month with a report in the Bild newspaper about a home loan at cheap rates that he received from the wife of a wealthy businessman friend when he was premier of the northern state of Lower Saxony.
The revelation that he left an incandescent voicemail message for the editor of top-selling Bild, threatening "war" if he published the story on the home loan, has deepened Wulff's problems.
Several conservative allies and opposition lawmakers have turned on him in recent days and German media has been scathing in its criticism.
Germans take the office of president seriously. The incumbent is seen as a moral authority who defends laws set out in the constitution, including a commitment to press freedoms.