Human rights activist to be new German president

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, February 19, 2012 16:36 EDT
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Joachim Gauck to be German president AFP
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BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel said her coalition and the opposition had agreed Sunday to nominate former East German rights activist Joachim Gauck as a consensus candidate to become Germany’s next president.

The decision came following Christian Wulff’s resignation from the post Friday over a corruption probe and after members of Merkel’s own conservative party dropped their objections to Gauck, 72.

Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany and like Gauck is a Protestant, hailed the popular pastor as a “true teacher of democracy” who had helped the country grow together since its reunification in 1990.

“This man can provide an important impetus for the challenges of our time and the future,” she said after a meeting of representatives of the centre-right government and the opposition at the chancellery late Sunday.

Gauck was the candidate of the opposition Social Democrats and Greens in June 2010 against Wulff, a former Christian Democrat state premier and Merkel’s hand-picked choice for the office serving as a kind of moral arbiter for the country.

Wulff was only elected in the third round of voting — a messy start to a doomed presidency.

The mainstream opposition backed Gauck this time as well following Wulff’s decision to step down. Only the far-left Die Linke, which includes several former East German communists, said it would withhold support when the president is elected in March.

Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved.

Agence France-Presse
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