30 June, 2010

Germany's Presidential Elections

Germany elects a new President today. The post is largely ceremonial and the choice is not made by popular vote.

Instead, there is a vote by an Assembly of 1,244 members, half of them deputies on the Bundestag, the other half representatives from the various states. Despite the consittution making it clear that the Assembly members are not bound by party loyalty the result is very likely to be a function of party politics. Angela Merkel has put forward a dull, safe candidate, Christian Wulff, 51, who is the Governor of Lower Saxony and a member of her centre-right CDU party. The Centre-Left by contrast have nominated Joachim Gauck, 70, a Pastor and charismatic human rights activist from the old East Germany.

Gauck is a very strong candidate and according to Der Spiegel many centre-right assembly members are considering voting for him. Only twenty or so of the 1,244 members would need to go against the party line to cause an upset.

The reason is the unpopularity of Angela Merkel, who is seen as having made a mess of the Greek bailout and has introduced an unpopular austerity package. The feeling increasingly is that Merkel is unable to work in a team. She came to power, a female from the East, with a mandate to reform. Many think she has failed and if her candidate loses today, her movement, what we might call Merkellism, will be finished.

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