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Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Germany: New President - reestablishing trust to the political elite?

So, Germany has voted for a new president.

Well, when we say "voted", it was not the people that did vote last Sunday. It was the so called "Federal Assembly", which consists of all 620 members of the parliament, and the same number of delegates chosen by the parliaments of the 16 federal states, people like former politicians, artists, actors, and rewarded people from the public.

Our new president - Joachim Gauck - was actually nominated in concensus by nearly all parties represented in our parliament, which was a unique incident so far in the history of presidential elections. Usually, the two big political parties nominate their own candidates.

But since former president Christian Wulff (from the conservative party, CDU) resigned because of a corruption affairs after being in office for less than 2 years. Evidently, the CDU had to come up with a new candidate. Concensus was required here, because Wulff caused severe damage to the president's office, leading to an increasing distrust of German public towards its own political elite.

After several meetings, chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with the Liberal Party, the Social Democrats, and the Green Party to nominate a common candidate: Joachim Gauck (who was actually nominated by the Social Democrats for the last presidential elections, and lost against Wulff).

Gauck, being the first East-German to become president of united Germany, is a protestant cleric, and former head of the administration for investigation on the former East-German intelligence service STASI (Staatssicherheit).

Being a former East-German human rights acitivist, he enjoys an overall respect in German public - except from the Left-Wing Party (which is in essence the former East-German Socialist Party, SED), who - of course - set up their own candidate to run against Gauck: Beate Klarsfeld, known for being an active Nazi-hunter. She lost, by gaining 126 votes against Gauck's 991 votes.

Now, can Gauck restore trust to the German political elite? Will he bring back respect for the office of the president?

Chances are not bad at all, being a concensus candidate of all democratic parties represented in the German Parliament, and a well respected public figure, he will certainly bring respect back to office, even bringing a sort of party-independence (a novum, since party membership is one of the most decisive factors for gaining a high position in German politics).

His predecessor Wulff caused severe damage, in a way that has never been before in German history. Gauck is in fact a chance to set a signal: a signal that the most important political offices have to be free from party quarrels, personal interests, or even financial incentives.

It's a restart, and a signal to the people as well. Especially, since Wulff has been dismissed with massive vuvuzela protests during his official military leave ceremony.

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