Former German Foreign Minister Elected as Germany's President
By Mei Manuel, February 13, 2017 01:02 AM
On Sunday, former German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has been elected as Germany's 12th president.
Steinmeier, a Social Democrat who had served as foreign minister until last month, won 931 of the 1,239 valid votes by lawmakers and representatives of Germany's 16 federal states. There 103 abstentions and 14 votes were invalid.
After Bundestag president Norbert Lammert announced the results, all representatives held a standing ovation, except for a few dozen members of the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. The party currently has no lawmakers in the lower house but has 10 in the 16 state parliaments.
The AfD filed its own candidate, who received 42 votes.
"I have faith in him to lead our country in these difficult times," Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will be running for a fourth term in the general elections, said after the vote.
The Kremlin said in a statement that Russian President Vladimir Putin had congratulated Steinmeier in a telegram and invited him to visit Moscow.
Steinmeier drew criticism last year when he said NATO's decision to stage military maneuvers in eastern Europe amounted to "saber-rattling". His fellow Social Democrats prefer a softer stance towards Russia than Merkel's conservatives.
Russia wants the European Union to lift sanctions imposed over its annexation of Crimea and backing of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.
The German constitution mandates that a special assembly is convened to elect presidents. It includes 630 lawmakers in the Bundestag lower house and an equal number of representatives from the federal states.
Germany's current president Joachim Gauck steps down on March 18 after announcing on June 6, 2016 that he will not seek re-election for the general elections due to his age.
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