Opposition politicians spoke almost in the same tone about an overdue step and said the Office of the President has been damaged while coalition partners from the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) expressed their respect for Christian Wulff.
Wulff resigned from office shortly after 11 a.m local time Friday, less than 24 hours after prosecutors said they would seek to have parliament lift his immunity so they could formally investigate allegations he accepted favours during his tenure as governor of the state of Lower Saxony. At the center of the probe are allegations that a film producer had paid for a vacation in a luxury hotel for Wulff during his time as head of a state government. Wulff has denied the allegation, saying he repaid the filmmaker in cash.
Wulff appeared at his official residence, Berlin's Bellevue Palace, to announce his resignation. "I have enjoyed exercising this office," Wulff said during his five-minute resignation speech. "Our country needs a president who can address the massive national and international challenges unhindered."
"The developments of the last days and weeks," he said, "have shown that this confidence, and with that my effectiveness, has continued to be affected. For this reason it is no longer possible any more for me to perform the office of the federal presidency either domestically or abroad, as it is necessary."
"I have made mistakes," he said, before adding that he had always acted in a legally correct way in his offices.
Wulff, who is a member of Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, also said he believed the investigation would lead to his "complete exoneration." Addressing the nonstop media coverage of the affair, Wulff lamented: "The news reporting that we experienced in the last two months has hurt me and my wife."
Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed her deep regret and said she would seek out a joint candidate supported by the major parties. The FDP, above all, is sticking to its position that the ruling coalition should put forth its own candidate.