The scandal involving deputies who belonged to the conservative bloc of German Chancellor Angela Merkel comes at an unfortunate moment for the Christian Democrats: on Sunday (14) state elections will be held in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.
Accused of receiving bribes for recommending mask makers to the federal government or for negotiating business-to-business deals as part of the effort to acquire more quantities of the article, MPs Nikolas Löbel, of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and Georg Nüsslein, of the Social Union ally (CSU) of Bavaria, gave up the blocs of their respective parties.
About a year ago, when the pandemic started, masks were scarce and valuable, causing prices to skyrocket quickly. At that time, it was possible to quickly earn money from the crisis. German prosecutors are therefore now investigating the two politicians.
Löbel Mannheim left the CDU and also resigned their seat in the Bundestag. Speaking to the conservative German newspaper Die Welt, he admitted the mistake.
“As a member of the Bundestag, and in particular in the specific context of the pandemic, I should have conducted my trade negotiations with more sensitivity,” said Löbel. He is suspected of having received 250,000 euros (over 1.7 million reais) in tuition fees.
But Nüsslein preferred to take a different stance. He resigned from the CSU party, but said that, for now, he intended to retain his seat in parliament as an independent politician, much to the fury of some of his supporters.
CSU general secretary Markus Blume told broadcaster ARD he was relieved by Nüsslein’s resignation. “It was an inevitable measure, also to limit the damage to the part itself.”
Greens keep up the pressure
The opposition does not seem satisfied with the dismissal of the two parliamentarians. For the co-chairman of the Green Party, Robert Habeck, the scandal is linked to the 15 long years of CDU / CSU in power under the leadership of Angela Merkel. For Habeck, especially a year ago, as the pandemic spread, Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) was the main point of contact for many companies that intended to help.
And, of course, conservative politicians tend to have better business contacts than politicians of other shades.
“Second, however, there is simply a special closeness to economic activity and a lack of awareness as to whether certain financial transactions may not be appropriate,” Habeck said.
The mask scandal refers, among other things, to the difficulties encountered by Philipp Amthor, parliamentarian of the CDU. Until May 2019, he worked at Augustus Intelligence, lobbying CDU Economy Minister Peter Altmaier and other politicians on behalf of American society.
Initially, the 29-year-old politician insisted he had not received a salary. Gradually, however, he had to admit that, yes, he had received offers of shares in the company in the amount of up to US $ 250,000 (1.45 million reais). He also accepted assistance with travel costs.
Despite the accusations, Amthor was named the lead candidate for the CDU in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
Fight against corruption
The Social Democrats (SPD) have also increased the pressure by claiming conservative rivals and coalition allies.
“It must be the responsibility of all Democrats that greed and favoritism have no chance in our parliament,” said SPD co-chairman Norbert Walter-Borjans.
A track record of transparency or lobbyists’ actions could, in the future, help shed light on the darker areas where politics and business collide. After a long period of discussion of the details, the CDU / CSU and the SPD now appear to be in basic agreement with this plan.
In the future, lobbyists will therefore have to sign a registration and provide details of their employers or the companies that hired them. This also applies to lobbyists who seek to influence departments or the federal government. Previously, this additional step had met with resistance and, therefore, had not been included in an earlier draft plan.
The anti-corruption NGO Transparency International, for its part, advocates a total ban on certain forms of lobbying.
“The rules of conduct in the Bundestag must be broadened and explicitly sanction certain forms of lobbying, as in the cases of Nüsslein and Löbel,” Hartmut Bäumer, chairman of the organization in Germany, told the newspapers of the media group Funke. .
But the Liberals are not happy with such proposals. Liberal Democratic Party (FDP) leader Christian Lindner is calling for an independent person to be called in to investigate the allegations.
“A special investigator, therefore, a former judge, should go backstage to see if everything that happened was legal – with access to the files,” Lindner told ARD. “Only after that they should inform us, and then, later, the public.”
In recent weeks, growing dissatisfaction with the way the government has handled the pandemic, especially with the slow start of vaccination, had already caused losses to the CDU in two of Germany’s most important states.
Now, the Tories may have to brace themselves for further losses in Sunday’s regional elections following the scandals.