In a session chaired by Bundestag President Norbert Lammert, the Federal Convention elected Frank-Walter Steinmeier to succeed Joachim Gauck. Steinmeier is set to assume office on 19 March.
Immediately after the announcement of the election result, Steinmeier said he was filled with great joy and that his "great respect for this office remains". He thanked his predecessor Joachim Gauck, "a Federal President who has done this office and our country good, a president who speaks for freedom and who embodies the joy of freedom with his every fiber".
In stormy times, when the world seems out of joint, the cement of society becomes more important, Steinmeier continued. He said he thought it "wonderful that this country has become an anchor of hope for many people in the world." Germany gives others courage, not because everything is well here, but because "we’ve shown that things can get better".
He stated that "we must hold ourselves to high standards when it comes to sorting fact from fiction". The aim is not to deny reality, but to improve it.
Steinmeier urged people to courageously defend freedom and democracy in a united Europe: "Together, we want to and we must defend this foundation. It is not invulnerable, but I am firmly convinced that it is strong."
Chancellor Angela Merkel was pleased with the election of Steinmeier as the new head of state. "I am convinced that he will be an outstanding Federal President," she said after the election in Berlin’s Reichstag.
He will serve as Federal President in "difficult times". "And I trust that, in his function, he will accompany our country very well through these difficult times", the Chancellor continued.
In addition to the 630 members of the Bundestag, numerous celebrities were among the electors such as the coach of the German national football team, Joachim Löw, actress Natalia Wörner, comedian Hape Kerkeling, pop singer Roland Kaiser, drag artist Olivia Jones and actress Iris Berben.
There were five candidates in the ballot: the parties CDU/CSU, SPD, Alliance 90/The Greens and FDP had nominated the SPD lawmaker and former Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Alongside Steinmeier, the political scientist Christoph Butterwegge (Die Linke party) and the vice-chairman of the AfD (Alternative for Germany) party, Albrecht Glaser, were also in the race. Television judge Alexander Hold was representing the Bavarian state parliament’s Freie Wähler (Free Electors) party. Lastly, the Pirate Party nominated Engelbert Sonneborn, father of satirist and member of the European Parliament Martin Sonneborn, as their candidate.
Butterwegge received 128 votes, while 42 ballots were cast for Glaser. 25 delegates voted for Hold, and 10 for Sonneborn. There were 103 abstentions.
Election of the Federal President
It is up to the Federal Convention to choose the Federal President. It is made up of the members of the German Bundestag and by an equal number of representatives of the federal states, chosen from the state assemblies or senates of the individual states. Because the German Bundestag currently has 630 members, another 630 members of the Federal Convention represented the Länder. With a total of 1,260 delegates, the Federal Convention is the third-largest ever.