East German former Lutheran pastor Joachim Gauck is Germany’s new president, after reluctantly being backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Winning with an overwhelming majority, he got 991 votes, to his closest opponent, Beate Klarsfeld’s 126.
The 72-year-old is Germany’s third president in two years and its first one from the former communist East.
Addressing a gathering at the Bundestag, Gauck said: “I accept this mandate with the infinite gratitude of a person who has finally and unexpectedly found a home country after a long meander through the political deserts of the 20th century.”
“It is encouraging and uplifting for me to see how many people in the country have encouraged me to accept this candidacy,” Gauck said, speaking of poll results that show 80 percent of Germans trust him.
Known for being a pro-democracy activist allied to no specific party, Merkel only supported Gauck after her coalition partners chose him.
Gauck has been voted in on the same day as the first free election in the former GDR 22 years ago, where the decision was made to reunify Germany.