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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Germany’s Federal Convention to elect new President

Tomorrow, Wednesday, June 30th, the German Federal Assembly is going to elect a new President. The election comes after the previous President, Horst Koehler, unexpectedly resigned in late May. President Koehler was very popular among German citizens, but had received growing criticism from the reigning conservative government. According to Art. 54 (4) the Basic Law (commonly referred to as the German Constitution) the new President has to be elected within 30 days once the President leaves office.
The German President has a largely ceremonial role, so usually the election wouldn’t ignite much interest, but as Chancellor Merkel has been widely criticized lately, this election is viewed as a test of her leadership.

Four candidates are on the slate for Wednesday. Merkel's governing coalition presented Christian Wulff, currently minister president of the state of Lower Saxony, as its candidate. His main opponent is Joachim Gauck , a pastor from the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). Gauck was once the first Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Archives, and is widely favored by the public as well as the opposition. The third candidate is Luc Jochimson, an outspoken proponent of the former GDR. And the fourth one is Frank Rennicke, candidate for the Nationalist Party.

The German people have no say in Wednesday's vote; the federal president will be elected by a federal convention, which includes 1,244 lawmakers. Merkel's governing coalition has a slim majority in the assembly and usually the members are expected to vote with the party that selected them for participation, but a number of high ranking personalities suggested that no one should be “forced” to vote according to party lines .

Exciting times for Germany and I will be glued to the TV tomorrow.

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