Former foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, billed as Germany’s “anti-Trump” was elected Sunday as the new ceremonial head of state.
The 61-year-old, who regularly polls as Germany’s most popular politician, will represent the EU’s top economy abroad and act as a kind of moral arbiter for the nation.
His Social Democrats (SPD) hope the appointment will boost their fortunes just as their candidate Martin Schulz, the former European parliament president, readies to challenge Chancellor Angela Merkel in September elections.
Steinmeier received 931 of 1,239 valid votes after Merkel’s conservatives, lacking a strong candidate of their own, agreed to back him to replace incumbent Joachim Gauck, 77, a former pastor from ex-communist East Germany.
The vote was held in Berlin’s glass-domed Reichstag building by a special Federal Assembly, made up of national lawmakers and electors sent from Germany’s 16 states — among them deputies but also artists, writers, musicians and national football coach Joachim Loew.
With his snowy white hair, round glasses and dimpled smile, Steinmeier is one of Germany’s best-known politicians, having twice served as top diplomat under Merkel for a total of seven years.
Though the trained lawyer is usually measured in his speech, in the thick of last year’s US election campaign Steinmeier labelled Donald Trump a “hate preacher”.