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President in crisis as poll numbers tank

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President in crisis as poll numbers tank
Photo: DPA
17:30 CET+01:00
With his poll numbers sinking, German President Christian Wulff came under renewed pressure Thursday following a televised mea culpa in response to his exploding financial scandal.

The 52-year-old's latest controversial move was to demand that the Bild newspaper not release a voicemail message in which he reportedly threatened the paper's editor about an exposé on him in December.

“The words spoken in an exceptionally emotional situation were exclusively for you and no-one else,” Wulff wrote to Bild's editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann on Thursday.

Although it's unclear whether Bild can legally release the recording without the president's consent, it asked for it anyway, calling on Wulff to be “transparent.”

Though the majority of Germans initially supported Wulff to remain in his largely ceremonial position, it appears the spiralling scandal has done serious damage to his popularity.

Only 47 percent believe Wulff should remain in office, according to a poll by the ARD television network. That's compared to 63 percent on Monday.

Wulff has been an object of controversy since last month when it emerged that he had failed to inform state parliamentarians in Lower Saxony about a private €500,000 loan he took out when he was the state premier in 2008.

Since then, a range of finance-related accusations have surfaced, including that he received preferential financing from a bank.

His interview Wednesday night was an attempt to answer the media accusations, but on Thursday editorialists unanimously condemned the appearance as a failure.

Under the headline "A Wasted Chance", Bild wrote that Wulff's appearance had not saved him.

He "wasted a further, possibly last chance to continue his time in office with dignity," it said.

The daily Süddeutsche Zeitung quipped that while one of the president's constitutional roles was to grant pardons, Wulff was the first president to pardon himself.

Asking how he could restore the gravitas of the position, it said, "Wulff apparently trusts that he can do that himself. He stands rather alone in this confidence."

The head of the Pirate Party in Berlin's state parliament Andreas Baum – who has gained an increasingly influential voice in national politics – was the latest politician to express doubts about Wulff's ability to stay on, calling his position “untenable” Thursday.

The Local/AFP/DAPD/mdm

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