With his snow white hair, round glasses and dimpled smile, Frank-Walter Steinmeier is one of Germany’s best known politicians, having twice served as foreign minister under Merkel for a total of seven years / Photo: Facebook/SPD

Newly-elected President Steinmeier as “German answer to Donald Trump”

Former Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was elected Germany’s new president on Sunday by the 1,260-member Federal Assembly, made up of national lawmakers and parliamentarians from the country’s 16 states.

Five candidates participated at the election.

In addition to Steinmeier, other candidates for the presidency were the political scientist Christoph Butterwegge, the vice-chairman of the AfD, Albrecht Glaser, the TV judge Alexander Hold, who was presented by the free voters of the Bavarian State Parliament, and the candidate of the Pirate Party, Engelbert Sonneborn.

Steinmeier, a Social Democrat who was jointly nominated by the CDU/CSU, SPD, Greens and FDP, received 931 votes.

The position of the president, while largely ceremonial, remains a key symbol of the German state, and its holder plays the role of a moral arbiter in national debate.

In his acceptance speech, Steinmeier urged Germans to have courage to listen to each other, and preserve “what we have – freedom and democracy in a united Europe.”

The 12th Federal President, 61, who takes over from 77-year-old Joachim Gauck, will officially assume office on 19 March.

The German press has welcomed the election of Frank-Walter Steinmeier with praises for his diplomatic skills and moderate positions.

Analysts say that could create tensions with the US as he has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, at one point referring to him as a ‘preacher of hate’.

“In difficult times, it is good to have a president who has a way with words, a person who can listen, as well as speak the truth and give encouragement. [Steinmeier] has proven himself by managing international crises. Now he needs to make sure that Germany sticks together and does not get poisoned by populist nationalism,” the daily Mittelbayerische Zeitung noted.

“In a way, Steinmeier is the German answer to Donald Trump.”

Femi Awoniyi

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