Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has been dealt a blow after the federal assembly failed to elect her conservative candidate as the country’s president.
The ballot is usually a political sideshow as the post is largely ceremonial but Christian Wulff did not obtain enough support to avoid a second round runoff despite the government’s absolute majority.
The outcome is widely seen as an attack against Merkel’s efforts to deal with Germany’s economic crisis.
Wulff’s path was blocked by the centre-left opposition candidate Joachim Gauck, a popular civil rights activist.
The Left’s candidate, Lucretia Jochimsen, was third.
The next round of voting will take place this afternoon and the winner only needs a simple majority.