The Federal Convention, Germany’s largest political representation elected a new president Sunday (March 18) following the resignation of Christian Wulff on 17 February.
According to the German Constitution, or the Basic Law, a new president has to be elected within 30 days.
The front-runner and favourite, the Lutheran pastor, Joachim Gauck, became the eleventh president in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany. He secured 991 of the 1,232 votes cast at the 15th Federal Convention in first round of voting.
As president, Gauck is expected to speak his mind. He is also a forthright confronter of what he perceives to be wrong.
A Lutheran pastor in 1965, in the northern part of Rostock, Gauck opted to study theology when other university courses where denied him because of his father’s dissidence and because he was not a member of the communist youth organisation.
At the height of the east German revolution of the late 1980’s when the Church spoke out in favour of democracy, Pastor Gauck held services which preceded the big demonstration that eventually toppled the regime.
After German unification following the fall of the Berlin Wall, Gauck became head of the commission which investigated the activities of the Stasi, the East German secret police.
The newly-elected president enjoys wide support across the political spectrum, apart from the left, some of whom resented his anti-communist stance.
He did not have the crucial support in 2010 when Chancellor Merkel backed the now-departed Christian Wulff. She opposed Joachim Gauck when he was proposed by the opposition.
Today, Chancellor Merkel describes him as a “true teacher of democracy.”
His strengths, says the Süddeutsche Zeitung were his “preacher-like emotionalism” adding that this might present a difficulty for Chancellor Merkel: “His thoughts and words and sometimes even his actions are guided by emotions. As president he will be difficult to predict, he will irritate people.”
His nomination for the post of German president was broadly welcomed by the press after the resignation of Christian Wulff.
Mr Gauck, with no party affiliation, describes himself as a “liberal left conservative”, and has expressed support for the policies of both Social-Democrat and Christian-Democrat coalition governments on a non-partisan basis.
A father of four, he is separated from his wife.
His partner since 2000, the journalist Daniela Schadt, will take on the ceremonial duties of First Lady.
By Mellisa Sheridan, ANA Political Editor &
Musah Ibrahim Musah