25/05/2009 - Results
Outgoing German President Horst Köhler (Christian-Democratic Union, CDU) was re-elected on 23rd May for a second five-year term in office as head of the Federal Republic of Germany. With the support of the Christian Democratic Union and the Liberal Democratic Party (FDP), he was appointed in the first round in which he won the absolute majority of the votes i.e. 613 of the 1,223 members present at the German Federal Assembly (Bundesversammlung) which includes 612 members of the Bundestag, the lower Chamber in Parliament, and an equal number of representatives from the 16 Länder. His main rival, Gesine Schwan (Social Democratic Party, SPD), won 503 votes; the Left Party (Die Linke) candidate Peter Sodann, former actor in the police series Tatort won 91 votes.
To win Gesine Schwan needed the votes of the Die Linke as well as those of the SPD. It was a difficult exercise since the candidate also had to attract the members of the Free Voters, who sit rather more to the right on the political scale.
Aged 66 Horst Köhler was born in Nazi occupied Poland in 1943; his family originated from Romanian Bessarabia, annexed to the former USSR by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939. His parents fled Romania for Poland before settling in Leipzig in the former German Democratic Republic then in the Land of Bad Wurttemberg in 1953. Horst Köhler was Deputy Finance Minister (1990-1993) in Helmut Kohl's government and chaired the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) from 1998-2000 before becoming Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from 2000-2004. On 23rd May in that year he was elected President of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The election of the President takes place on the 60th anniversary of the Federal Republic of Germany. "60 years ago the Germans who lived in the West of our country made a promise. A promise they also made for their fellow countrymen who could not speak freely at the time. With the Fundamental Law they promised to rebuild Germany on the foundations of freedom and human dignity. They promised to build a democracy and to bring their country back into the folds of the free. We kept that promise,
" declared Horst Köhler during his speech.
On this occasion the President called on all Germans to come together, twenty years after the fall of Berlin Wall. "We cannot accept the continued division (East-West) in terms of employment statistics. As far as unity is concerned the same applies for democracy: the work is never finished,
" declared Horst Köhler indicating that "Germany cannot allow more economic and social divisions,
" caused by the present economic crisis. The Head of State, who qualified the Fundamental Law as "The Constitution of Freedom", encouraged his countrymen, as the text does, to establish new goals for the future.
This election is undeniably a victory for Angela Merkel and more generally for the rightwing parties who have shown they are prepared to join forces to form a future government. The left however seemed divided just two weeks before the European elections and four months before the general election on 27th September. "Each electoral result before the general elections is used by the various parties to motivate their supporters and this presidential election is primordial,
" says Gero Neugebauer, political analyst at the Free University in Berlin.
According to the polls the result of the presidential election is in line with the wishes of most Germans. Indeed the latest poll undertaken by the weekly Stern and published on 19th May last reveals that if they had to vote by direct universal suffrage in the presidential election nearly 2/3 would have given their vote (69%) to Horst Köhler.
The German president will be sworn in before the members of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat together; he will declare as stated in article 56 of the Fundamental Law: "I swear to devote all of my strength to the good of the German people, to increase what is beneficial to it, to cast aside anything that damages it, to respect and defend the Fundamental law and the laws of the Federation, to fulfil my duties conscientiously and to be fair to all. So help me God!