02/12/2017

 

A German parliamentary assembly has elected Frank-Walter Steinmeier to become the country’s next president by an overwhelming majority.

Mr Steinmeier, Germany’s former foreign minister, strongly criticised Donald Trump during the US election campaign.

When asked in August about the rise of right-wing populism in Germany and elsewhere, Mr Steinmeier criticised those who “make politics with fear.”

He cited the nationalist Alternative for Germany party, the promoters of Britain’s exit from the European Union, and “the hate preachers, like Donald Trump at the moment in the United States.”

The daily Berliner Morgenpost billed Mr Steinmeier as “the anti-Trump president”.

He was elected with 931 of 1,260 votes. The German president has little executive power but is considered an important moral authority.

Mr Steinmeier, a Social Democrat, had the support of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “grand coalition” of centre-right and centre-left parties.

He has long been one of Germany’s most popular politicians.

Under Ms Merkel, he served twice as foreign minister — from 2005 to 2009 and again from 2013 until this year, with a stint as opposition leader in between. He has also won respect for his persistence in trying to resolve the long-running crisis in Ukraine.

He will succeed Joachim Gauck, a 77-year-old former pastor and East German pro-democracy activist. He did not seek a second five-year term because of his age.

His election is likely to be one of the last moments of coalition unity ahead of a parliamentary election in September in which Ms Merkel is seeking a fourth term. Both sides hope to end the “grand coalition.”

Additional reporting by AP

Independent.Co. UK