New German president sworn in after vote drama

2nd July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Germany's new president Christian Wulff was sworn into office on Friday after an election earlier this week that turned into a debacle for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"Once again there was a real election for the post of federal German president," the conservative Wulff, 51, said in parliament. "Every fair contest is good for our democracy."

On Wednesday rebels in Merkel's coalition turned what should have been a routine election by a special assembly of MPs and public figures into what analysts and media commentators called a humiliation.

Merkel's candidate Wulff was eventually elected, but it took three rounds of voting over a record-breaking nine hours after rebels broke ranks and opted for the main opposition candidate, Joachim Gauck, in the secret ballot.

The left-leaning Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily said the vote was the "writing on the wall" for Merkel's coalition, while Spiegel magazine said it was her "biggest failure."

Merkel had been hoping that the presidential vote would get her rocky second term back on track after seeing her popularity ratings plummet since winning re-election last September at the head of her preferred coalition.

The 55-year-old was hammered at home and abroad for her handling of the eurozone crisis while the alliance of her Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) with the Free Democrats (FDP) has been plagued by squabbling.

Wulff was previously premier of the western state of Lower Saxony. He succeeds as president Horst Koehler, who resigned on May 31 after he appeared to suggest German troops abroad were defending Berlin's economic interests.

© 2010 AFP

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