Germany President 2010

The German Federal Assembly, or Bundesversammlung, met yesterday June 30 to elect the new German President in a snap election caused by the sudden resignation of President Horst Köhler on May 31. Köhler unexpectedly resigned following controversial comments he had made, noting that Germany was involved in Afghanistan partly out of the need to secure trade and safe trade routes. Köhler had been re-elected by the first ballot in 2009. The Federal Assembly is made up of all members of the Bundestag and certain members of state legislatures chosen based on the composition of said legislatures. Each state has a varying amount of delegates based on population, and state delegates make up exactly half the Federal Assembly.

The composition of the Federal Assembly of 2010 was as follows, compared to the composition of the 2009 Assembly:

CDU-CSU 496 (-1)
SPD 333 (-85)
FDP 148 (+41)
Greens 129 (+34)
Left 124 (+34)
FW 10 (nc)
NPD 3 (nc)
SSW 1 (nc)
DVU 0 (-1)
Independents 0 (-2)

The CDU/CSU-FDP coalition, which holds a majority in both the Bundestag and Federal Assembly, nominated Lower Saxony Minister-President Christian Wulff for President. Federal cabinet minister Ursula von der Leyen, considered close to Chancellor Angela Merkel, was considered the front-runner but it seems that the CDU, for sake of party unity, turned to Wulff, a former rival of Merkel for the CDU’s leadership and major figure of the party’s conservative wing. Wulff holds conservative views on family and moral issues. The SPD and Greens nominated a well-known and well-liked independent, Joachim Gauck, a former political dissident in East Germany and head, between 1990 and 2000, of the Stasi archives. Gauck, a staunch anti-communist, is respected across party lines for his moral stature and past political actions against the East German communist regime. He also received the support of the 10 Bavarian delegates of the Free Voters (FW), a group which had boosted the CDU/CSU-FDP coalition to a majority in 2009 and provided for Köhler’s easy re-election on the first ballot. He also received the endorsement of certain state sections of the FDP, although FDP leader Guido Westerwelle said that the entire party supported Wulff. Guido often finds himself living in his own little world. The Left nominated Luc Jochimsen, a member of Parliament, who commented that the GDR was not a “state of injustice”. Despite them being common opposition partners, the Left protested the nomination of Gauck given how much the Left hates him. The NPD, neo-Nazis, nominated Frank Rennicke, who had also stood in 2009. He had garnered 4 votes in 2009, including one from the DVU, but the DVU lost its seat following its defeat in the 2009 Brandenburg state elections.

Polls showed that German voters would have elected Gauck by a considerable margin over Wulff, partly out of respect for Gauck and also a growing opposition to the Merkel government. The CDU/CSU-FDP coalition which the CDU had dreamed about in 2009 has turned out to be a nightmare, with bickering between the CDU and FDP and a general lack of leadership. The FDP has suffered badly for its incompetence in government, dwindling in polls from 14.6% in 2009 to a mere 4% (!) these days. The Greens have also seen their voting intentions rise dramatically to around 16-18%.

Here are the result(s):

First ballot

Christian Wulff (CDU/CSU-FDP) 600 (48.3%)
Joachim Gauck (SPD-Greens-FW) 499 (40.2%)
Luc Jochimsen (Left) 126 (10.1%)
Frank Rennicke (NPD) 3 (0.2%)
Abstentions 13 (1%)
Invalid 1

Jochimsen got 2 more votes than the Left’s 124 members. The coalition backing Gauck had 462 members, officially, while Wulff’s official coalition of the CDU and FDP had 644, 623 being a majority. Of course, Rennicke got only three votes given that any additional vote for him wouldn’t compute and would mean that a member of the major parties voted for the Nazi. That would raise some eyebrows.

Second ballot

Christian Wulff (CDU/CSU-FDP) 615 (+15) (49.7%)
Joachim Gauck (SPD-Greens-FW) 490 (-9) (39.6%)
Luc Jochimsen (Left) 123 (-3) (9.6%)
Frank Rennicke (NPD) 3 (nc) (0.2%)
Abstentions 7 (-6) (0.6%)
Invalid 1

Jochimsen and Rennicke dropped out. Jochimsen urged her voters to abstain. 1239 votes were cast, while 1242 were cast in the first and third rounds. There are 1244 members of the Federal Assembly.

Third ballot

Christian Wulff (CDU/CSU-FDP) 625 (+10) (50.2%)
Joachim Gauck (SPD-Greens-FW) 494 (+4) (39.7%)
Abstentions 121 (+114) (9.7%)
Invalid 2

Wulff’s election, which doesn’t mean anything, allows Merkel (and Guido) to breathe a sigh of relief. A Gauck victory on the back of defections from the CDU and FDP would have been very bad for Merkel’s image. David McAllister, of Scottish and German background, is the new Minister-President of Lower Saxony. He also holds British citizenship.

Posted on July 1, 2010, in Germany. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. JonBidinger

    Just happen to stumble across this excellent resource and am going through the back posts, but as a follow-up to this post, many people who watch German politics believe that Merkel nominated Wulff because he was a potential rival, and thus sidelined him in the ceremonial Presidential post where he could be no trouble.

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