Former pastor, activist to be new German president

Former pastor, activist to be new German president

Former pastor, activist to be new German president

German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirms her support for the new presidential candidate Joachim Gauck (L). AP photo

Germany’s government and the two major opposition parties said they would jointly nominate former East German human rights activist Joachim Gauck to be the country’s next president.

Merkel confirmed her support for Gauck, 72, two days after Christian Wulff, her hand-picked choice for president in 2010, resigned in a scandal involving financial favors. The announcement paves the way for Gauck, a Protestant pastor who was a leading figure in the peaceful protest movement that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall, to be confirmed in the ceremonial post by the Federal Assembly in the coming weeks.

Wulff’s departure was a blow to Merkel because she pushed through his election in 2010 despite the fact many Germans and the leading opposition parties wanted Gauck to become president. “What moves me the most, is that a man who was still born during the gloomy, dark war, who grew up and lived 50 years in a dictatorship ... is now called to become the head of state,” Gauck said. “This is of course a very special day in my life.” Merkel, who as Gauck grew up in then-communist East Germany or the GDR, said their life stories strongly connect them. “We have both spent a part of our life in the GDR and our dream of freedom has become true in 1989.” The chancellor stressed that clergymen such as Gauck were at the forefront of the protests that eventually brought down the Communist regime.

Christian Wulff, 52, quit as president Feb. 17 after prosecutors asked parliament to strip him of his immunity from prosecution over accusations of improper ties to businessmen. The move followed two months of allegations he received favors such as a favorable loan, and hotel stays from friends when he was state governor of Lower Saxony. Germany’s head of state holds a largely ceremonial role. The new president will be elected by a special assembly next month, tentatively planned for March 18, but with cross-party backing, the process should be a formality.

Gauck urged Germans not to make him out to be a “superman” or a “man without faults,” but pledged to do his utmost to restore a sense of pride to the nation.

Compiled from AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.