The nepotism scandal shaking Bavaria's state parliament has prompted a leading regional Social Democrat to resign. Politicians of all stripes are under fire for hiring close relatives with public funds.
The Bavarian parliamentary whip for the opposition Social Democrats, Harald Güller, tendered his resignation on Tuesday, becoming the first SPD scalp of the state's political nepotism affair.
Public prosecutors had said they were considering a formal investigation against Güller for hiring his step-son for two months in 2009, despite a ban on politicians hiring close relatives like their wives and children. Güller said he was not aware that the rules also included stepchildren.
"I am setting a clear sign, also as an example to others," Güller wrote on his homepage, also saying he had returned the roughly 7,400 euros ($9,570) he was paid.
In December 2000, the rule was introduced forbidding the employment of close relatives. However, existing contracts of this kind were allowed to stand. Earlier in May, a complete list of 79 politicians still employing relatives was released - a move that followed the resignation of the ruling CSU's parliamentary chairman Georg Schmid.
The Christian Social Union (CSU) is the Bavarian arm of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, a perennially dominant force in the state's parliament.
Beating the deadline
The president of the regional parliament, Barbara Stamm, on Tuesday released a fresh list of 16 politicians - 12 of them from the CSU - who hired relatives in the months directly before the December 2000 moratorium, in the knowledge that the still-legal practice would soon be banned.
One of them, Georg Winter of the CSU, is also on state prosecutors' radar, amid allegations that he hired his two sons part-time in 2000, when they were both under the age of 16. They stayed on the books for roughly 12 years. Winter has since returned the 90,000 euros they received and has already resigned his position as the head of the state's budgetary commission.
"Schlager" (a type of pop music with folk roots) singer Claudia Jung, a member of the Bavarian Free Voters (Freie Wähler) party, might also face a formal investigation. Like Güller, she is accused of hiring her stepson for a few months in 2012.
The nepotism scandal, which has implicated the dominant CSU to a larger extent than the opposition parties, has not hurt the ruling group in the polls ahead of September's Bavarian election. A poll published Tuesday by newspaper "Stern" and conducted by Forsa gave the CSU 46 percent public support, an improvement on their performance in the 2008 vote.
The SPD was a distant second with 20 percent, with the Greens at 12 percent. The Free Voters, a formerly Bavarian-only group calling for as much decentralization to individual municipalities as possible, was fourth at 10.2 percent. The party is also running for the first time in this year's federal elections, taking place one week after the Bavarian ballot. Both the Free Democrats, junior coalition partners in Bavaria and at the federal level, and the Left party were polling below the 5-pecent hurdle required to guarantee parliamentary representation.
msh/slk (AFP, dpa)