The former East German rights activist, Joachim Gauck is to replace the scandal hit Christian Wulff as Germany’s ceremonial president.
Just two days after Wulff quit over corruption allegations, 72-year-old Gauck won the endorsement of all Germany’s main parties.
Although seen primarily as the opposition’s choice, Chancellor Angela Merkel bowed to political pressure and agreed with the others to support his candidacy.
As far as Gauck was concerned the news came as a surprise. Addressing journalists he said:
“I cannot give you a keynote address now in the confusion of my feelings. That is impossible. I’m just off the plane and was in a taxi when the chancellor got hold of me, I haven’t even showered…
But it doesn’t matter that you see that I am overwhelmed and a little bit confused.”
By supporting him, Merkel lays herself open to accusations she backed the wrong horse two years ago when she pushed Wulff into the presidency over Gauck. Nevertheless, polls show a majority of Germans approve.
One voter said:“I think that the fact that Merkel decided to bite the bullet is something good. Good for the CDU and good for Merkel. Gauck is a president with whom everybody can live.”
Merkel’s acquiescence has at least avoided a fight with opposition parties which could have distracted her from tackling the euro zone crisis.
Gauck, who is a Protestant pastor, is likely to be voted into the job by Germany’s Federal Assembly before the middle of next month.