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Germany - Presidential Election

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, elected President of the Federal Republic of Germany

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, elected President of the Federal Republic of Germany

14/02/2017 - Results

As expected, Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) was elected President of the Federal Republic of Germany on 12th February, after the first round of voting. Supported by the SPD, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU), he collected 931 votes of the 1,260 members of the Federal Assembly (Bundesversammlung), which includes the 630 members of the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, and an equal number of representatives from the country's sixteen Länder and personalities from civil society.
He will take over from Joachim Gauck, who had decided not to stand again, on 18th March.

"As President of the Republic I want to be a counterweight to those who simplify without limit, quite the contrary to being a president who simplifies everything. That is the best antidote to populism" declared the new Head of State, whom some reproach for his positions sometimes seen as too favourable with regard to Vladimir Poutine's Russia. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, former Foreign Minister, also criticised NATO's policy with regard to Moscow, which he saw as "hawkish". A generally moderate man, he also came out of his reserve in the summer of 2016, referring to Donald Trump, at the time the Republican candidate for the US presidency, as "a hate preacher".

The position of President of Germany is essentially honorific, although the Head of State can refuse to sign a text that he considers to be contrary to Fundamental Law (in this case the matter is brought before the Constitutional Court and, if it gives its green light, the president is forced to sign it). This happened at the time of the signature of the Maastricht Treaty, and that of Lisbon. He also has the power to dissolve the Bundestag in two specific cases: when it does not succeed in electing a Chancellor (i.e. if no candidate manages to gather a majority of members' votes after three days, in accordance with article 63 of Fundamental Law) or when a vote of confidence, proposed by the chancellor in office, does not obtain approval from the majority of members of the lower house of parliament (article 68).

Aged 61, Frank-Walter Steinmeier is originally from Detmold (North Rhine-Westphalia). A law graduate, he joined the SPD at a young age. At the beginning of the nineties he worked with Gerhard Schröder (SPD), at the time Prime Minister of the Land of Lower Saxony. As Secretary of State and Director of the Chancellery of Lower Saxony, he followed Gerhard Schröder when the latter became Chancellor after elections held on 27th September 1998. The following year, Frank-Walter Steinmeier was appointed Chief of Staff of the Chancellery. He was to be one of the architects of the most remarkable reforms implemented by Gerhard Schröder, known as Agenda 2010 (reforms of the pension system, healthcare system and the employment market).

He specialised in foreign policy, which caused Chancellor Angela Merkel, who succeeded Gerhard Schröder in 2005 to appoint him as Minister for Foreign Affairs. In 2009 Frank-Walter Steinmeier led the SPD list in the general elections of 27th September. He suffered a severe defeat, with the SPD collecting its lowest result since the end of the Second World War, with 23% of the vote. He was nevertheless appointed President of his party at the Bundestag, a position which he abandoned a few months later in order to give one of his kidneys to his wife, who was seriously ill and was waiting for a transplant, a move that made him very popular amongst the German people.
At the end of 2013, Frank-Walter Steinmeier returned to his post as Minister for Foreign Affairs, which he held until January of this year.
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
The author
Corinne Deloy
Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
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