Late yesterday Christian Wulff from the Christian Democrat Party was, after much ado, elected President of Germany by the Federal Assembly. As his party is part of a coalition, led by Angela Merkel, which has a majority in Parliament, it ought to have been an easy match, but for only the third time in the history of the Federal Republic three rounds were needed to elect a president. This is interpreted as another blow to Angela Merkel’s standing and yet another example of the trouble which has engulfed her present coalition after it came to power last autumn.
It is believed that Merkel would have preferred her close ally Ursula von der Leyen to be the party’s candidate for president, but she did not succeed in convincing her own party, which rather opted for Wulff, until now Minister President of Lower Saxony and belonging to another party camp than Merkel.
However, Joachim Gauck, an independent who was chosen as the opposition’s candidate, seemed to enjoy more popular support than Wulff. In the first round some 40 members of the governing coalition rebelled, leaving Wulff with 600 votes and Gauck with 499, both of them well short of the required absolute majority.
In the second round Wulff received 615 and Gauck 490, while two other candidates received 126 votes altogether. Only in the third round, with only two candidates left and with only a simple majority needed, was Wulff elected with 625 votes against Gauck’s 494.
In comparison, Horst Köhler, who unexpectedly resigned the presidency in May, was re-elected with an absolute majority in the first round last year.