Germany to elect new president, Steinmeier as frontrunner

Trump critic Steinmeier set to be new German president

The president is elected by an assembly of German politicians, artists and ordinary German citizens, and holds a largely ceremonial role.

The social-democrat will on 18 March succeed President Joachim Gauck, who for health reasons did not stand for re-election.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a centre-left politician who once described Donald Trump as a "hate preacher" has been elected German president.

He received 931 of the 1,260 votes.

One Saturday last month, members of the local branch of Angela Merkel's ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) met in the former East German town of Grimmen, half an hour from the country's Baltic coast, to choose their candidate for September's federal elections.

"Isn't it actually wonderful, that this Germany, our hard fatherland, that this country has become an anchor of hope in the world for many", after overcoming wars and totalitarianism, Steinmeier said.

"I wholeheartedly congratulate you on the occasion of your election as President of the Federal Republic of Germany", said President Aliyev in his letter.

In his acceptance speech, Steinmeier said Germany should be an "anchor of hope" while democratic institutions were under threat across the globe.

The United States has always been a beacon of democracy and freedom for post-war Germany, a country where the scars of World War II are never far from the surface. The Social Democrats hope to thwart Merkel's fourth bid in the vote as the coalition partners have announced that they want to finally end the so-called grand coalition. Horst Koehler, a former International Monetary Fund managing director whom she helped into office before she was chancellor, abruptly resigned in 2010, citing lack of support from political Berlin.

Steinmeier's election to a five-year term came as no surprise. He also served as vice chancellor from 2007 to 2009.

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