Berlin (dpa) – Nine months before the next federal presidential election, incumbent Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced his candidacy for another five years in top state office.
“I would like to run for a second term as Federal President,” the 65-year-old said in Berlin on Friday. “I would like to guide our country on its way into the future, a future after the pandemic, a future after Corona.” The pandemic has left deep wounds in society. “I want to help heal these wounds.”
Head of state since 2017
Steinmeier’s first term ends in early 2022. On February 12, 2017, the Federal Assembly elected him the 12th Federal President with a vote of about 75 percent. The then SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel had proposed and implemented it in the grand coalition. Steinmeier, then foreign minister, succeeded Joachim Gauck, who waived a second term due to age reasons. On March 22, 2017, he took his oath of office in a joint meeting of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat.
A defining theme of his tenure was the defense and strengthening of the increasingly strained parliamentary democracy in Germany and other countries. Also on his trips abroad, Steinmeier regularly tried to strengthen the democratic forces. The second half of the parliamentary term was strongly dominated by the corona pandemic. He addressed the population several times in video messages asking for support in the fight against the virus. In April, Steinmeier organized a memorial campaign for those who died during the corona pandemic.
Approval in a grand coalition
The candidacy of the former SPD politician for a second term was met with reluctance or approval. He was expected to receive the greatest applause from the SPD. Chairmen Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans said Steinmeier held the office with “great moral authority”. At a time when social cohesion and reliable prospects for all people living here are particularly important, “the impartial and unpretentious attitude of this Federal President is a great asset to our country”.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Chancellor Angela Merkel had “great respect” for Steinmeier and for his office. The announcement stands for itself. Steinmeier and Merkel met on Friday morning.
CDU chairman Armin Laschet said in Berlin: «I express my respect for this decision. The cabinet of the Federal President has a central function for the cohesion of society.” This certainly also applies in election time and in the pandemic. He is looking forward to a further trusting cooperation with the Federal President.
Mixed reactions from the opposition
He sees the decision “with respect and sympathy,” FDP chairman Christian Lindner wrote on Twitter. “In view of the coming political changes, continuity at the top of the state would be desirable.” Greens chairmen Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck told Steinmeier that he held office “with foresight and humanity”. Who will be the head of the state in the future will only be decided after the federal elections.
Thuringia’s prime minister, Bodo Ramelow (left), also agreed. Steinmeier had “did a good job in difficult times,” he told the editors in Germany. “I say that as prime minister and not as a party politician.” However, this plea for Steinmeier is also addressed to his own party.
Industry chairman Siegfried Russwurm told the dpa about Steinmeier: “For me, he combines intellectual strength and foresight with a sober reality and personal commitment in a very convincing way.” The chairman of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), Reiner Hoffmann, told the dpa: “He enjoys a high reputation and trust among many employees. During the difficult months of the pandemic, he showed great understanding for the concerns and needs of the employees.”