Germany′s Steinmeier poised for reelection as special assembly meets | News | DW / German News

Almost 1,500 delegates gathered in Berlin on Sunday to choose Germany’s president — a largely ceremonial position — for the next five years.

The so-called Federal Assembly (Federal Convention) consists of the members of Germany’s Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, along with an equal number of delegates chosen by the country’s 16 states, or Länder.

Among the latter delegates are some well-known personalities, including former Chancellor Angela Merkel, the national football coach, Hansi Flick, leading virologist Christian Drosten and the pianist Igor Levit.

Özlem Türeci, who as co-founder of the pharmaceutical company BioNTech was one of the driving forces behind the rapid development of the Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine, is also among those selected to vote.

Who are the candidates?

Current President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, 66, a Social Democrat who served two stints as Merkel’s foreign minister and previously was chief of staff to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, is widely seen as a favorite to win the election.

A recent opinion poll indicated that 85% of people living in Germany thought he was doing a good job, and he enjoys the support of both the ruling coalition and the mainstream conservative opposition parties.

The three other candidates are left-winger Gerhard Trabert, 65, who is running for the opposition Left Party, physicist Stefanie Gebauer, 41, who was nominated by a political group called the Free Voters, and Max Otte, 57, an archconservative economist chosen by the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The latter choice made waves in the German political scene, as Otte is not a member of the AfD and remains a part of the mainstream Christian Democrats (CDU). The leaders of the CDU have voted to cancel his membership.

How does voting take place?

This time around, the Federal Convention is not meeting in the Reichstag as usual owing to pandemic regulations requiring the voters to remain 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart. Instead, the vote is taking place in the neighboring Paul Löbe House, with delegates spread over several rooms and floors.

The vote is cast by secret ballot, with delegates called to the voting booths in alphabetical order.

The result is decided according to who wins the absolute majority of votes.

What does Germany’s president do?

While German presidents have little executive power, they aspire to be moral authorities above daily politics.

Anyone holding the office signs bills into law and represents Germany in various ceremonies both inside and outside the country.

During Steinmeier’s first term in office, he championed liberal democracy in Germany and abroad and urged dialogue on sensitive issues. Recently, that included plans for compulsory vaccination against the coronavirus.

tj/dj (dpa, AP)

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