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Brandenburg appoints Dietmar Woidke as new state premier

German Social Democrat Dietmar Woidke has been appointed premier of the eastern state of Brandenburg. The former state interior minister replaces long-serving premier Matthias Platzeck who stepped down due to ill health.

Dietmar Woidke, pictured right, was elected Brandenburg state premier in a secret ballot on Wednesday, winning cross-party support in parliament. The Social Democrat was backed by 59 of 87 members of the legislature.

The 51-year-old, who was the sole candidate, was sworn in immediately after the ballot. The former state interior minister remains elevated to premier until Brandenburg's next state election due in September 2014.

"I have very, very big shoes to fill," Woidke said after the vote, referring to his predecessor Matthias Platzeck. "I can't replace him," he added.

Platzeck, who had served as premier since 2002, reiterated in a speech to parliament on Wednesday that ill-health had forced him to step down. His address was met with several minutes of arduous applause.

The 59-year-old, who had said shortly after suffering a stroke in June that he had no intention of resigning, confirmed last month that he had changed his mind based upon the advice of his doctor and the heavy work toll of leading the state government.

"I wrestled with this decision for the whole six weeks [since the stroke]," he told reporters at the time.

Platzeck will remain a member of parliament and has confirmed he will run again for a seat in 2014.

ccp/ipj (AFP, dpa)