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Coronavirus ‘mask affair’ shakes German parties ahead of polls

A scandal surrounding alleged profits that two German lawmakers gained from the sale of coronavirus masks has stirred up the country's main parties ahead of key regional elections.

A scandal surrounding alleged profits that two German lawmakers gained from the sale of coronavirus masks has stirred up the country’s main parties ahead of key regional elections.

Party leaders across the spectrum have weighed in on the so-called “mask-affair,” which led to the two conservative lawmakers leaving the governing bloc.

Christian Democrat (CDU) Nikolas Loebel and Georg Nuesslein from the allied Christian Social Union (CSU) have both left their parliamentary parties after coming under immense pressure from party colleagues and other politicians.

After initially saying that he would resign his parliamentary mandate by the end of August, Loebel on Monday announced that he would step down straight away.

“In order to avoid any further damage to my party, I will resign my Bundestag mandate with immediate effect,” he said.

Nuesslein said that he would like to stay on as a lawmaker until the end of the current legislative period in September, but the CSU party leader, Markus Soeder, has called for him to also step down immediately.

Both men are accused of receiving six-figure sums for helping negotiate contracts for coronavirus face masks. Loebel confirmed on Friday that he was involved in businesses that dealt with face masks, and that the deals had made his firm about 250,000 euros (297,000 euros).

The controversy has become a hot topic ahead of state elections in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate on Sunday; the conservative CDU/CSU bloc is also looking to make sure nothing damages their chances of coming out on top in national elections in September.

CDU leaders have said they cannot rule out further cases connected to the affair coming to light.

CSU leader – and possible future German chancellor – Soeder said the morally right thing to do would be for the two disgraced politicians to hand back or donate the money they had earned.

Other party leaders have wasted no time wading into the debate.

Liberal FDP leader Christian Lindner has called for a special investigative committee to look into the affair.

Robert Habeck, the co-leader of the Greens – which are flying high in the national opinion polls – said the controversy showed there was a “structural and systemic problem” within the CDU/CSU bloc.

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