FRANKFURT, March 8 (Reuters) – A German lawmaker from chancellor Angela Merkel’s party said on Monday he would stand down from the national parliament immediately for receiving payment after brokering procurement deals for face masks for local authorities.
“In order to avert further damage for my party, I withdraw from my Bundestag mandate,” said Nikolas Loebel the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) party in a statement.
Loebel came under fire after saying on Sunday that he would he resign from the CDU faction but keep his seat in the lower house until general elections in September.
In his Sunday statement he said his conduct did not meet the “special moral duty” of his office.
His resignation comes one week before regional elections in the western states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Wuerttemberg, where Loebel’s constituency is.
The scandal risks stirring more voter disgruntlement after Germany’s ruling coalition of Merkel’s CDU and the centre-left SPD came under fire for a slow COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
CDU-chairman Armin Laschet, a possible contender to succeed Merkel as chancellor, and other leading conservative lawmakers called on Loebel to quit as member of parliament immediately.
Elected officials seeking gains in their duty to protect against the pandemic “should leave parliament immediately”, Laschet told broadcaster ARD.
Another conservative member of parliament, Georg Nuesslein, on Friday resigned as one of the deputy leaders of Merkel’s parliamentary group, saying he would also not defend his seat in parliament in September.
Nuesslein, a member of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party CSU, denies allegations that he took more than 600,000 euros via a consultancy firm for mediating a mask purchase order by the state.
Prosecutors in Munich have said they are investigating initial allegations of bribery against Nuesslein. ($1=0.8391 euros) (Reporting by Andreas Rinke, Klaus Lauer and Christian Goetz; Writing by Ludwig Burger and Vera Eckert; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Hugh Lawson)