Frank-Walter Steinmeier, President and Pyrrhic Victor
In an improvised and rushed ceremony this week, the leaders of the governing Christian and Social democratic parties presented current foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier as their joint candidate and, indeed president-elect, as the February 2017 vote is a formality.
After all, the parties backing Steinmeier command an overwhelming majority in the federal assembly, the electoral body composed of national and state MPs.
German media and Berlin pundits were quick to see this decision as yet another defeat for chancellor Angela Merkel, bruised as she is after her recent series of political setbacks.
In turn, for the Social Democrats, the nomination of one of their own is seen as a resounding success. Priding themselves for having outmaneuvered their senior coalition partner on the presidency, many now harbor fresh hopes of a similar stunt in next year’s federal elections.
More likely, however, this will turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory for Steinmeier and his party. Even more so, the true benefit may go to Merkel, whether by design or default.
The choice of the next German president, however ceremonial the office itself may be, has been seen as a barometer of the political status quo and its prospects beyond next year.
Ever since current and widely popular president Joachim Gauck announced his departure, a heated debate has raged as to whether or not the two governing parties would field a common candidate, and what their eventual choice would signal regarding their coalition preferences in a post-2017 government.
Photo credit: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung