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German lawmaker resigns over face mask scandal

Nik Martin
March 8, 2021

Nikolas Löbel is bowing to pressure following revelations that his company earned hundreds of thousands of euros on deals to procure masks during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nikolas Löbel
Nikolas Löbel says he will not seek reelection for the state of Baden-WürttembergImage: Jörg Carstensen/dpa/picture alliance

A lawmaker from German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) stepped down on Monday over a government deal to procure face masks.

Nikolas Löbel announced that he would resign from his parliamentary mandate with immediate effect and would not run for the Bundestag again.

"In order to avoid further damage to my party, I am resigning my Bundestag mandate with immediate effect," Löbel said.

He had previously announced the immediate termination of his membership in the center-right party's parliamentary group and issued an apology.

Löbel confirmed on Friday that he was involved in businesses that dealt with face masks.

Following the announcement, a second senior lawmaker announced that he would leave the conservative parliamentary group. Georg Nüsslein, who is facing a probe over the scandal, said that, although he is leaving the group, he plans to hold on to his seat.

Georg Nüßlein
Senior conservative lawmaker Georg Nüsslein, who is under investigation over the scandal, said he would stand down from the conservative's parliamentary groupImage: Christoph Hardt/Geisler-Fotopres/picture alliance

Profiting from mask procurement

Löbel's company earned commissions of about €250,000 ($300,000) for brokering sales contracts for masks between a supplier in his state of Baden-Württemberg and two private companies in the cities of Mannheim and Heidelberg.

"I take responsibility for my actions and draw the necessary political consequences," the 34-year-old politician said.

Pressure had been growing on Löbel to resign in recent days, as Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate head to polls this month.

Löbel's apology wasn't enough for some critics, including Susanne Eisenmann, the CDU candidate for state premier in his home state.

She told news magazine Der Spiegel that "it is unacceptable for parliamentarians to enrich themselves in this serious crisis."

Bavarian MP to leave parliamentary group

Löbel's case isn't the first to rattle the center-right bloc.

Nüsslein, a prominent lawmaker with the Christian Social Union, the CDU's Bavaria-only sister party, faces a corruption probe in connection with mask procurement deals. He denies wrongdoing.

On Sunday, Nüsslein said he would leave the conservative bloc's parliamentary group effective immediately, but that he does not plan on giving up his seat in parliament.

His lawyer previously announced he would not run for re-election in September.

Markus Söder, the head of the Christian Social Union (CSU) Party that is based in Bavaria, renewed calls for Nüsslein to quit the Bundestag too.

"I'm of the strong opinion that a clean break is better than an extension," Söder said in Bavaria's provincial capital Munich on Monday.

2021 is a critical year for the CDU with an election due on September 26 to pick a new national parliament and determine who succeeds Merkel.

kmm, mm/rt (AP, dpa)