German celebrations for their constitution’s 60th anniversary coincide with the election of a new president. The current head of state, Horst Kohler, wants a second five-year term, but faces a tricky battle in what is also seen as a test for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative government. However, Kohler should be able to muster enough support in the Federal Assembly to keep the largely-ceremonial post.
His main opponent is university professor Gesine Schwan, who lost narrowly to Kohler five years ago. Victory would embarrass the Chancellor ahead of September’s general election. Half of the assembly electors come from parliament, the others from Germany’s 16 states. Many of these figures are local celebrities or sports stars not aligned to political parties, thus creating an element of unpredictability.