Remaining true to his reputation for blandness, Christian Wulff ended his short presidency with a whimper on Friday.
Confronted with demands that his immunity from prosecution be lifted, he stepped down after a stream of revelations about his alleged impropriety. From a sweetheart loan from a rich acquaintance to weekend getaways with someone else picking up the tab, it was a million pin pricks rather than a single transgression that left the 52-year-old’s political career in tatters.
His only notable act during his two-year tenure as Germany’s largely ceremonial head of state was to declare Islam had become an integral part of the country’s society. Unfortunately his attempt to further the integration of Germany’s Muslims will now become a mere footnote in an otherwise unnecessary presidency.
Handpicked by Merkel as a supposedly safe set of hands following the unexpected resignation of his temperamental predecessor Horst Köhler in 2010, Wulff failed to inspire from the start.
His nomination made plenty of people queasy, because there are good reasons someone shouldn’t go directly from active politics into the highest office of the land. Wulff had been state premier of Lower Saxony, not the usual elder statesman chosen to be German president.
But Merkel ignored such concerns and rejected the opposition’s efforts to find a joint candidate for the presidency, such as Joachim Gauck, a former pastor and respected East German civil rights activist.
Her stubborn insistence led to the humiliation of Wulff only being elected after three rounds of voting – an omen, perhaps, of the troubled presidency that was to come.
Now the chancellor is left looking for her third head of state in just two years. In an embarrassing climb down, she acknowledged on Friday she would seek a broad parliamentary consensus for the next president.
After personally choosing Köhler – who fled from office – and Wulff – who was chased from it – she call ill afford another presidential crisis of her own making.