Merkel seeks consensus candidate for president

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday she would hold talks with all major political parties to find a consensus candidate to replace the scandal-hit state president after his resignation.

By (AFP)

Published: Fri 17 Feb 2012, 5:51 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 10:51 AM

“We want to hold talks with the aim of being able to propose a joint candidate for the next president of the Federal Republic of Germany,” Merkel told reporters in a sombre two-minute statement.

She said she had “great respect” for, but also “deep regret” over, his decision to step down in the wake of a series of scandals.

Wulff had served Germany “with great energy” both at home and abroad, representing a “modern and open” country, Merkel said. “He made clear that the strength of this country lies in its diversity,” she said.

Merkel said she would first speak to the parties in Germany’s coalition government — her own centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party the CSU, and the pro-business Free Democrats.

According to coalition sources contacted by AFP, such a meeting could take place as early as Saturday.

She would then open negotiations with opposition parties, the Social Democrats (SPD) and the ecologist Greens, to find a unity candidate.

The SPD’s general secretary Andrea Nahles said: “I welcome the offer of Chancellor Angela Merkel to find a joint candidate for the office of federal president.”

Merkel in 2010 invested a great deal of political capital in forcing through Wulff’s election in parliament, which turned into a humiliating challenge to her authority.

It took nine hours and three rounds of voting by a special assembly of MPs and public figures for Wulff to be elected.

With Merkel’s coalition holding a majority in the assembly, the election should have been a shoo-in in the first round, but a handful of rebels voted against Wulff in the secret ballot.

The role of president is largely ceremonial in Germany but commentators said the loss of her hand-picked candidate would be a blow to Merkel as she seeks to focus on leading Europe out of its crippling debt crisis.

Wulff’s resignation followed the abrupt resignation of Horst Koehler in 2010 over remarks that appeared to justify the use of German military power to protect the country’s economic interests.

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