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Ex-bishop Kässmann 'not available' to run for president

Protestant theologian Margot Kässmann says she does not want to serve as the next president of Germany, putting an end to speculation about her candidacy. A replacement for President Gauck will be chosen in early 2017.

Margot Kässmann, the former head of Germany's Protestant Church, told German media on Wednesday that she had no intention of running for federal president.

"I am honored to be named in connection with the highest office in the country, but I am not available for this position," Kässmann told the "Berliner Zeitung" and "Passauer Neuen Presse" newspapers.

Earlier on Wednesday, reports surfaced that the Social Democrats (SPD), the Left Party and the Greens were considering her as a candidate for the next president. Left Party chairman Bernd Riexinger confirmed to the "Berliner Zeitung" that SPD chief and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel had held talks with both the Left and the Greens about the possibility of backing a common candidate.

"We want a candidate who is open-minded and stands for social justice and a peaceful foreign policy - Ms Käßmann would meet [this requirement], without doubt," Riexinger said.

Kässmann, a Lutheran theologian, was previously Bishop of the Protestant-Lutheran Church of Hanover. In 2009, she was elected to lead the German Protestant Church, but stepped down four months later after driving through a red light whilst under the influence of alcohol.

Watch video 03:52

German president will not run again

One-term Gauck

Despite holding talks with the Left, "Funke Media Group" reported that Gabriel still favors a consensus with the SPD's Grand Coalition partners - Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union.

Unlike the German chancellor, the German president isn't chosen by popular vote, but rather by what's known as the Federal Convention. It's comprised in equal parts of the Bundestag parliamentary delegates and representatives from Germany's 16 federal states.

Gauck's successor is due to be elected by Germany's Federal Assembly on February 12, 2017. Merkel had originally hoped that he would serve a second term, but the 76-year-old announced in June that he was worried about his ability to continue in the role into his eighties. 

Although the German president is nominally the head of state, aside from certain constitutional duties, the job is largely ceremonial.

nm/jm (AFP, dpa)

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