BERLIN (AP) — A special parliamentary assembly meets on Sunday to elect Germany’s president for the next five years. Incumbent Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has been endorsed by most mainstream political parties, is seeking a second term as largely ceremonial head of state.
The president will be elected by a special assembly of 736 people made up of members of the lower house of parliament and representatives of Germany’s 16 states. The Social Democrats, Greens and pro-business Free Democrats – the three parties in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government coalition – are expected to have a majority in the assembly.
Germany’s largest opposition party – the Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union – also said it would support Steinmeier’s re-election, leaving the head of state well placed to decide. win another five years in power.
Steinmeier, 66, announced he would seek a second term in office last May, ahead of parliamentary elections that brought Scholz’s coalition to power and at a time when his chances of re-election looked far from certain. The president said he wanted to help heal the divisions widened by the coronavirus pandemic.
Before becoming president, Steinmeier twice served as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s foreign minister and was previously Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s chief of staff.
The German president has little executive power but is considered an important moral authority. After a messy parliamentary election result in 2017, Steinmeier helped politicians form a new coalition government rather than wait for a new vote.
Besides Steinmeier, three other candidates are running for Germany’s highest office, although none of them has a serious chance of winning.
Gerhard Trabert, 65, a doctor, is running for the Left Party, Stefanie Gebauer, 41, was nominated by the Free Voters party and Max Otte, 57, is the candidate for the far-right Alternative party for the Germany, even though he is a member of the CDU – a fact which prompted his own party to ask him to leave or face possible expulsion.