A German politician from the “center-left” Social Democratic Party was elected Sunday as Germany’s new president.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, 61, who has previously served as vice-chancellor and foreign minister, was elected by a special assembly of state and federal politicians and celebrities, receiving 931 votes out of 1,239 delegates.
The presidential role in Germany is primarily a ceremonial position, as the chancellor is the official government head.
Steinmeier, who will serve a five-year term, has loudly criticized U.S. President Donald Trump, once calling him a “hate preacher” and comparing him to European “right-wing populists” who rule with fear.
Steinmeier’s election is seen as a sign that the conservative Christian Democrats are losing ground, as they failed to agree on their own candidate and, instead, gave their support to Steinmeier.
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The situation is reportedly putting current chancellor Angela Merkel in jeopardy, as she is fighting a tight race against popular Social Democratic candidate Martin Schulz for the chancellorship.
Steinmeier had resigned as foreign minister under Merkel last month, in order to run for the office of president, and will take office Mar. 18.
Like Merkel, he has supported the refugee program, and made pointed references to Trump in his acceptance speech Sunday, saying, “If the foundations start to wobble in other places, then we need to be even more determined than ever to support those foundations.”
“Isn’t it a wonderful thing that Germany has become an anchor for hope for many people around the world?” said Steinmeier. “We’re helping others find the courage — not because everything is perfect here in Germany. No, on the contrary, we’ve shown that things can get better, we’ve shown that peace is possible after war.”
The European Union had high praise for Steinmeier’s election. Donald Tusk, European Council President, released a statement, saying, “Your appointment comes at a critical moment for Europe. The many external and internal challenges we are facing could hardly be more severe. In times like these, European unity is more important than ever, and I look forward to Germany’s continued contribution to the European project.”
H/T: LA Times
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