Legislators vote for Frank-Walter Steinmeier as president

February 12, 2017

Federal and state legislators elect the country’s 16th president. The vote is a formality because the ruling coalition agreed in November on a joint candidate, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The vote might be good news for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Steinmeier, a Social Democrat (SPD), replaces President Joachim Gauck, who announced in Jun 2016 that he was stepping down from the largely ceremonial post. Steinmeier was seen as a potential rival for Merkel, who plans to seek a fourth term in the 2017 federal election. The presidency takes Steinmeier out of the race.

The Christian Democrats (CDU), their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the SPD make up Merkel’s grand coalition government. Merkel’s open-door migrant policy has left her vulnerable to critics within the governing CDU-CSU coalition. The policy contributed to her CDU party’s losses to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) in 2016 state elections.

The agreement on a joint presidential candidate suggests the coalition partners have decided they are stronger together, a situation that suggests they might not risk more internal splintering – potentially a boon to the AfD – by mounting a challenge to Merkel’s candidacy. Some analysts see the prospect of Merkel adjusting her migrant policy in response to the loss of voter and party support.

The President-elect will enter office on Mar 18, and will take the oath of office the same day in a joint session of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat.

#21931 Published: November 23, 2016