Germany's foreign minister was tapped to become his country's next president. Frank-Walter Steinmeier would take over the largely ceremonial role as head of state from Joachim Gauck, whose five-year term ends in February.
German news agency DPA reported yesterday that Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Union bloc would back Steinmeier's nomination for the post. Together with the votes of Steinmeier's own center-left Social Democratic Party, the 60-year-old political veteran would likely have enough support to win a vote among the 1,260 delegates who elect Germany's next president on Feb. 12.
Steinmeier is regularly ranked among Germany's most popular politicians. While normally studiously diplomatic, Steinmeier strongly criticized U.S. President-elect Donald Trump during the American election campaign.
Asked in August about the rise of right-wing populism in Germany and elsewhere, Steinmeier slammed those who "make politics with fear." He cited the nationalist Alternative for Germany party, promoters of Britain's exit from the European Union, and "the hate preachers, like Donald Trump at the moment in the United States." He said Germany would seek dialogue with the Trump administration, but warned that American foreign policy would likely become "less predictable."
Steinmeier first gained national attention in 1998 when he became chief of staff to Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder. He was credited with keeping a sometimes chaotic center-left government running smoothly and seeing through a package of economic reforms and welfare-state cuts in 2003. Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, declined to comment Monday on a possible replacement for Germany's top diplomat.
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