German President Horst Koehler announced on Thursday that he will run for a second five-year term in office next year. While his reelection seemed all but certain, he could now face a challenger.
Horst Koehler's reelection is not a sure thing
Koehler announced in Berlin on Thursday, May 22, that he would run for a second and final five-year term next year, confirming widespread speculation.
Koehler, 65, is Germany's ninth postwar president. He succeeded Johannes Rau in the largely ceremonial office in 2004.
A member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), Koehler was managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) before becoming German president. He was previously head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The German Social Democrats (SPD) said Thursday they would make an announcement on their possible candidate on Monday.
Gesine Schwan, 65, president of the Viadrina European University in Frankfurt an der Oder is seen as their likely candidate. She lost to Koehler by a narrow margin in the 2004 election.
Gesine Schwan will soon retire as university president
Although Koehler enjoys considerable popularity among ordinary Germans, observers said that in the event that Schwan campaigned, the outcome of the election was uncertain.
The German president is elected every five years by a federal assembly that convenes purely for this purpose and comprises members of the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, plus an equal number of representatives drawn from the 16 states.
Koehler himself caused controversy in the past when he suggested that the president should be elected by popular vote and only for a single, seven-year term.
Currently the parties backing Koehler -- the CDU, along with its Bavarian sister-party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the liberal FDP -- would have a majority in the assembly.
But Bavarian state elections in September could shift the balance towards the SPD, whose candidate is likely to receive the backing of the Greens and the socialist Left party.
The election, by secret ballot and without debate, is to be held on May 23 next year. A maximum of two terms in office is permitted.