Re: Köhler (President of Germany) resigns. Whatever.
German presidential election goes the distance, but favorite eventually wins
Germany has a new president, and it's the man everyone expected, Christian Wulff. However, the manner in which Wulff won was anything but convincing, and points to frictions within Germany's ruling coalition.
Germany's new president, Christian Wulff, looked a shoe-in for the post in the run up to the election, but a lack of support from his own party almost cost him the job.
It took three rounds of voting to decide the presidential race, after Wulff failed to secure the absolute majority required to win in an earlier round. The Christian Democrat state premier of Lower Saxony won in the final round of voting with an outright majority of 625 seats. Government supporters gave Wulff a standing ovation after his victory was announced.
However, in the first two rounds, Wulff had failed to reach the required threshold of 623.
This came as a shock; Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling center-right coalition had an absolute majority within the 1,244-seat voting assembly, so their candidate Wulff was guaranteed an immediate victory if their politicians toed the party line. Some, however, did not, despite appeals from senior party members.
"Christian Wulff must be able to rely on us," deputy chairman of the CDU, Wolfgang Bosbach said in a television interview, appealing to party members to consider "what their individual vote will mean for the coalition government."
Wulff's candidacy came under threat primarily from a strong center-left opposition candidate, Joachim Gauck, who's centrist positions made him attractive on both sides of the spectrum. A former civil rights activist, who fought against communist oppression in the former East Germany, Gauck is held in high esteem across party lines.
Gauck's final tally in the decisive third round was 494 votes, still more than many had expected.
Gauck received 499 votes in the first round and 490 in the second, 39 and 30 more than expected. In total, the opposition Social Democrats and Greens - who put Gauck forward as a candidate - only command 460 votes.
However, to have any chance of outright victory, Gauck needed support from the socialist Left Party, who had fielded their own candidate, Lukretia Jochimsen.
Jochimsen had received over 120 votes in the first two rounds, and adding this tally to Gauck's would have created a winning margin. But the Left Party had made it clear they did not support Gauck's candidacy, despite Social Democrat and Green attempts to convince them.
"Now it's a question of what the Left Party will do," Social Democrat leader Sigmar Gabriel said on public television after the second round. "They will either help Mr. Wulff or Mr. Gauck towards a majority."
Jochimsen withdrew from the third round of the vote, freeing up her party members to decide as they saw fit. But the Left Party was hardly throwing its weight behind either mainstream candidate.
"Obviously I would imagine that neither conservative candidate is considered electable by our members," party leader Gregor Gysi said, reiterating his belief that Gauck's politics are in fact right of center. Gysi said he expected most of his members to abstain from the vote, even though the decision was theirs to make individually.
Most Left Party politicians did abstain, with 121 not casting their vote in the decisive phase, a number, however, that would not have proven decisive in the end.
Christian Wulff's new role as German president is largely ceremonial, although he is the country's head of state, and the role is usually connected with a moral leadership value.
He takes over from Horst Köhler, who resigned suddenly in March, after coming under criticism for comments allegedly suggesting that some German military missions abroad could be justified because of the country's international economic interests. Köhler became the first post-war German president ever to step down.
Author: Mark Hallam (dpa/apn/Reuters)