Poll shows Germans favor Gauck as next president

Poll shows Germans favor Gauck as next president

BERLIN - Reuters
Poll shows Germans favor Gauck as next president

File photo of Presidential candidate Joachim Gauck. REUTERS

The former East German activist whose candidacy Chancellor Angela Merkel opposed two years ago is the favorite of a majority of Germans to become president, a poll showed today as her coalition government met to discuss filling the post. 

Christian Wulff, Merkel's hand-picked choice in 2010, resigned on Friday in a scandal over financial favours, forcing her to search for a replacement for the ceremonial but influential role. 

The poll for mass-selling weekly "Bild am Sonntag" showed rights campaigner Joachim Gauck was favored by 54 percent of Germans, even though he has not put himself forward for the job. 

The 72-year-old was an active opposition figure under East Germany's communist regime and oversaw the Stasi archives after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He is not affiliated to any major political party. 

Merkel rejected his candidacy for the post two years ago, pushing Wulff into the job instead, despite doubts about the regional politician's suitability for the position which is supposed to serve as a moral compass for the nation. 

Although she has vowed to seek a "consensus" candidate with the opposition, the search could prove divisive and distract her government from efforts to control the euro zone sovereign debt crisis. 
The chancellor, who postponed a trip to Rome for euro zone crisis talks to deal with the fallout of Wulff's resignation, met with top coalition members today to discuss candidates. 
A coalition source said it was unlikely to be in a position to meet the opposition today to agree on a candidate. 
While most political parties remained tight-lipped about their favourite for post, the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) came out in support of Gauck on Saturday, but said it was open to other proposals. 
The SPD and the Greens said they would oppose any member of Merkel's government taking up the post, ruling out Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen. 
Merkel wants to find a consensus candidate after a series of regional election votes won by the opposition sharply cut her majority in the Federal Assembly. The 1,240-seat body must vote on a new president by March 18.