BERLIN (Reuters) – Another legislator from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc stood down on Thursday evening when a magazine reported he had taken cash to lobby for a North Macedonian political party, several German media outlets said.
Der Spiegel reported that Tobias Zech, who represented Bavaria’s CSU party in the Bundestag, had taken a “five-digit sum” in 2016 to advise the party of former North Macedonian Premier Nikola Gruevski. He also personally campaigned for Gruevski, Der Spiegel reported.
Zech did not immediately respond to an emailed request to comment on the allegation or confirm his resignation. There is no suggestion that any business relationship with Gruevski’s party, carried out while Zech was a full-time legislator, would have been illegal.
Gruevski was later convicted of corruption in a North Macedonian court and fled to Hungary, where he was granted asylum and lives in exile.
The latest allegation comes at the worst possible time, however, for Merkel’s bloc, which has already lost three lawmakers over allegations that conservative lawmakers took payments for brokering face-mask procurement deals.
The conservatives fell to historic lows in regional elections on Sunday, with voter anger at the scandal compounding frustration over Germany’s sluggish deployment of coronavirus vaccines.
Merkel, always more popular than her own party, is not running for a historic fifth term in a national election later this year, leaving the question of her succession wide open, and opposition parties sense an opportunity.
A March 17 Forsa poll put the conservative bloc on 29%, down from 40% in June when Merkel won plaudits for her management of the coronavirus crisis in its first phase.
(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Peter Cooney)