On Sunday, an overwhelming majority of a special assembly elected former German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to be the country’s new president.
Germany’s new president:
The assembly that elected Steinmeier was made up of the 630 members of parliament’s lower house and an equal number of representatives from Germany’s 16 states. Steinmeier received 931 of the 1,260 votes.
Joachim Gauck, the predecessor of Steinmeier, is a 77-year-old former pastor and East German pro-democracy activist who did not seek a second five-year term due to his old age.
The German president is an important moral authority and symbol of the country, as well as its host for visiting dignitaries, even though he has little executive power.
In his acceptance speech, Steinmeier said “Let’s be brave, because then we don’t have to be afraid of the future,” He added that the world faces “rough times,” but that Germany, as a functioning democracy, had the responsibility to fight for stability.
He praised Germany, the “difficult fatherland” and marveled at how it became anchor of hope in the world for many, after overcoming wars and totalitarianism
Steinmeier, a 61-year-old Social Democrat, was backed by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “grand coalition” of center-right and center-left parties. Merkel congratulated Steinmeier on his win and stated that he would make an excellent president and will have the support of the majority of the German people.
This vote is probably the last instance of unity for the coalition before the parliamentary election in September in which Merkel is seeking a fourth term.
A few years ago, Steinmeier took a several-months absence from politics, to donate a kidney to his wife, Judge Elke Buedenbende, she will not work during her time as first lady to avoid possible conflicts of interest.
Steinmeier is one of Germany’s most popular politicians. He was former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s chief of staff. He served twice as foreign minister under Merkel, from 2005 to 2009 and again from 2013 until this year
Steinmeier strongly criticized Donald Trump during the U.S. election campaign despite being studiously diplomatic.
Steinmeier criticized those who “make politics with fear” such as the nationalist Alternative for Germany party, the promoters of Britain’s exit from the European Union, and the hate preachers, like Donald Trump.