CDU and CSU back Steinmeier for president

Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Netherlands, February 2016. [Government.NL]

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) have agreed to back Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a Social Democrat, as the ruling coalition’s candidate to replace Joachim Gauck as president next year, a conservative source said.

The Christian Social Union (CSU), the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, has also agreed to support Steinmeier for the largely ceremonial position, CSU leader Horst Seehofer said.

The heads of parties in the ruling coalition have met repeatedly to discuss a joint candidate to succeed Gauck, including a brief meeting on Sunday (13 November). It was not immediately clear who would succeed Steinmeier as foreign minister, if he wins the post.

Steinmeier is known as a reform-minded moderate within the SPD and associated with the controversial drive of Gerhard Schröder’s government to overhaul the welfare state. He served as Chief of Staff in Schröder’s government from 1999 to 2005.

During his time in office, Steinmeier was widely regarded as having good working relations with Angela Merkel but often taking a different stance on foreign affairs.

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Steinmeier is married and has one daughter. On 24 August 2010, he successfully donated a kidney to ill wife.

Voters surveyed by the pollster Emnid in early October ranked Steinmeier as their top choice for the role of federal president.

He was favored by 41% of those asked who was their preference if Germany elected its president directly, instead of via its current Federal Assembly system. The Federal Assembly consists of members of the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, and an equal number of political and nonpolitical representatives from Germany’s 16 states.

Second-placed was Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble of Merkel’s CDU, at 30%.

Schäuble, however, is not a candidate for president.

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Incumbent President Joachim Gauck was elected on 18 March 2012 with 991 of 1228 votes in the Federal Convention, a special constitutional body in the political and federal institutional system of Germany, convened solely for the purpose of electing the President of the Federal Republic of Germany.

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On 6 June 2016, President Gauck announced he would not stand for re-election in 2017, citing his age as the reason. He was born on 24 January 1940.

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