Joachim Gauck helped bring down the East German communist regime. Will he bring down Merkel? Chancellor Angela Merkel has chosen her candidate to fill Germany's vacant presidency. But the rest of the country prefers the opposition's favorite. The June 30 vote could turn into a disaster for Merkel, commentators write on Monday.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, a master tactician when it comes to the politics of power, has been outmaneuvered for once, and could get into serious trouble as a result. The sudden resignation
of the country's largely ceremonial president and head of state, Horst Köhler, last Monday was the latest in a series of blows that have dented her reputation with voters and her authority in government this year.
To avoid further damage and to demonstrate that she still has a firm grip on the reins in Berlin, Merkel needs to find a suitable replacement for Köhler and to ensure that he gets the necessary backing from her center-right majority in the Federal Assembly, the special parliamentary body which will convene on June 30 to elect the president. This has turned into an important test of her leadership, and so far, it isn't going well.Her chosen candidate for president, Christian Wulff, the governor of the northern state of Lower Saxony, initially seemed like a safe and easy choice. Wulff, a deputy leader of Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), is a bland, inoffensive career politician who has honed his Mr. Clean image with soapy soundbites such as this one: "What gives me strength is the hearty warmth of ordinary people." Merkel, confident of her parliamentary majority, rejected an offer from the opposition parties to agree on a compromise candidate for the presidency.Strongly in Favor of GauckWulff would have been a shoo-in for the job if the Social Democrats and Greens hadn't landed a coup by nominating a rival who most observers and even many of Merkel's followers believe would make a far better president -- Joachim Gauck, 70, a Protestant pastor from eastern Germany who opposed the communist regime, someone whom Merkel herself has showered with praise in the past. After unification, Gauck spent 10 years heading the authority that manages the archives of East Germany's secret police, the Stasi, thereby making a major contribution to shedding light on the crimes of East Germany.
To Merkel's alarm, large parts of the German media, including SPIEGEL magazine and mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag, have come out strongly in favor of Gauck, and some eastern German members of the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), the junior partner in Merkel's center-right coalition, have raised the prospect that they might vote for Gauck rather than Wulff on June 30.
Newspapers have been comparing the biographies of the two contenders and many have concluded that Gauck has much more to offer the nation. SPIEGEL writes that Wulff hasn't come up with a memorable initiative or piece of legislation in over 30 years in politics, while Gauck struck a blow for freedom and democracy by helping to bring down the East German regime.Media are calculating that it would only take 22 rebels in Merkel's coalition to deprive Wulff of the required absolute majority in the first two rounds of voting in the Federal Assembly, the body made up of the 622 members of the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, and the same number of delegates appointed by the country's 16 states. That alone would hugely damage Merkel's authority as CDU leader and chancellor. After the first two rounds, candidates need merely a simple majority. Were Gauck to ultimately win, it could spell the end of Merkel's government, German media commentators write on Monday.( Collapse )SourceOP's comments:
This is the first of these elections I remember that will actually be exciting. Normally, you know the makeup of the elector assembly, and almost all vote along party lines. But this time, it's entirely possible for things to turn out differently, because the candidate the Social Democrats and the Greens selected is a very strong one, with far more achievements for the country than the safe (and perhaps boring) choice Merkel made.
already damaged her government a bit, because before choosing Wulff, Ursula von der Leyen, the labour secretary, was floated as a candidate. At least we are sure to have been spared her
In addition to all this, the Left Party (a conglomerate of further-left parties, including the one that formed itself as successor of the ruling party in East Germany) has shown a side it should probably have hidden better: They reject Gauck because of his heading of the Stasi file office, and because of his criticism of former East German functionaries. As many Germans believe that enough has not been done to investigate the crimes that happened in the East, and as the Left Party's stance on the past in the East, particularly of its own members, has always been somewhat questionable, rejecting Gauck for this reason was not a wise move.