Popular incumbent Steinmeier eyes another term as German president

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Berlin (AFP) – German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is set to be re-elected for a second consecutive term on Sunday, having established a reputation as a tireless defender of democratic values ​​at a time when the resurgence of far-right extremism and the pandemic of coronavirus challenged them. test.

The 66-year-old Social Democrat served twice as foreign minister in Angela Merkel’s cabinet, stepping down as Germany’s top diplomat to assume the ceremonial role of head of state in 2017.

With his snow-white hair, round glasses and dimpled smile, this trained lawyer has become one of Germany’s most popular and trusted politicians.

The presidential role was an “honor” and a “tremendous challenge”, Steinmeier said in May last year when announcing his desire to stay in office until 2027.

The former foreign minister has presented himself as the conscience of the nation, occasionally intervening in political debates and speaking at memorials.

He has repeatedly warned of the growing threat from right-wing extremism in Germany and criticized the scenes at Kabul airport after the city’s fall as “shameful for the political West”.

The role of the president in Germany is mainly symbolic, with the incumbent acting as the constitutional counterpart of the head of government. Christof STACHEAFP

Steinmeier’s tenure was marked by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in Germany in early 2020, with the president at times acting as a moral arbiter in public debates on health issues.

Earlier this year, Steinmeier hosted a public debate between health experts and coronavirus vaccine skeptics, a vocal minority in the country that has increasingly taken to the streets to protest coronavirus rules. .

Second term

The presidential election, which is normally held in the Bundestag building, will instead take place at Paul Loebe Haus, a post-modern office complex opposite the Chancellery in central Berlin, to meet distancing requirements pandemic.

The president is elected by the Federal Convention, a single assembly made up of deputies and an equal number of state delegates, bringing the total number to nearly 1,500.

Among the delegates are a number of public figures, including Bayern Munich and German national team midfielder Leon Goretzka, selected by the Bavarian SPD.

Steinmeier's tenure was marked by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in Germany in early 2020
Steinmeier’s tenure was marked by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in Germany in early 2020 Bernd von Jutrczenka POOL/AFP

With the support of all parties in the current coalition government, including Steinmeier’s Social Democrats, the Greens and the liberal FDP, as well as the backing of the opposition Conservatives (CDU-CSU), the incumbent is expected to comfortably win the vote.

Three other candidates have been nominated for the post by the far-right AfD, the far-left Linke party and the Freie Waehler, which is part of Bavaria’s ruling coalition.

Presidents can run for a maximum of two terms in Germany, although Steinmeier, who is expected to be re-elected, is only the fourth person to do so.

The president’s role in Germany is largely symbolic, with the incumbent acting as the constitutional counterpart of the head of government, current chancellor Olaf Scholz, a fellow social democrat.

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