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People and Politics Forum 02. 07. 2010

"Should Germany's president be elected by the people?"

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More information:

Operation Presidency - A Cliffhanger for the Chancellor

Wulff was the hand-picked candidate of Chancellor Merkel. But there was little demonstration of full support from within her own coalition. Delegates from the Christian Democrats and the Free Democrats did not unanimously back Merkel's man.

Our Question is:

"Should Germany's president be elected by the people?"

Sophie Verheyn, Germany:

"I don't think the president should be elected by the people. That kind of grassroots democratic vote would only upset the balance between the head of state and the government."

René Junghans from Brazil says anything less wouldn't be democracy at all:

"Obviously the president should be elected by the people--it's the only way you can call it a democratic election. Even though the German president has only a ceremonial role, he's still the representative of the people in the country's highest office. Many deputies even though they are elected by the people don't represent their wishes whatsoever anymore, and therefore they should not "in the people's name" determine their president. Whether a candidate can be elected president or not can only be determined in a direct vote. In Brazil the people directly elect the president. There is a presidential vote this year here and all of the candidates are already advertising. I think this is a good thing--because the people are going to decide who the next president of Brazil will be. It's not surprising that about 80 percent of those surveyed support President Lula. I wish the new president good luck in finding his way with a divided Bundestag. He's going to need a delicate touch."

But Helge Weyland from Argentina says the cost of a direct vote could be prohibitive:

"If the German president was directly elected by the people, money for the candidates to campaign in all states would need to be provided if it was not put forward by the political parties. Surely no candidate would be willing to spend money given the responsibilities the German president has. Possibly, the parties, unions and organizations from the national and state-level would pick up the costs. But given how unlikely that is, the current, proven system will more than likely remain in place."

Juei-min Huang from Taiwan condemns the last vote:

"Angela Merkel obviously misused the election of the president for her own political means. That shows the time has come for introducing a direct vote of the German president. The authors of the constitution may have been right given the experiences of Weimar to have chosen the current system for electing the president. But the German people have become more mature and the country no longer needs to live in the old corset. After all Austrians have already proven that a direct vote does not necessarily have to be associated with an omnipotent president."

Gerhard Seeger, in the Philippines agrees:

"In a DW interview before being sworn in, Christian Wulff said that although the vote was saddening, he never doubted he would win and described the ballot as an example of German democracy. An example of what? He owes his election to his fellow politicians, mostly from his own party; he must have known that a majority of the people did not want him as president. It's actually a clear sign that the president should be elected by the people. That would be more democratic and be a real example of democracy. The current system of voting was certainly introduced by politicians so that they could make sure that one of their own was chosen as president. They'll be certain to pull out all the stops to prevent any change to this system of voting."

But Martin Burmeister from Venezuela rejects a direct vote:

"No! If the president was directly elected by the people, it would just lead to another dispute between the parties. The German president has no political powers. That is why the candidates' ability to remain above party politics could not be guaranteed if the president was elected by the people."

But Naveen Mathew Thomas from India says changes are needed:

"Time has come to elect all the political posts in a democratic manner...we call ourselves a part of a democratic nation and still such political posts like the President is still not of the choice of the people... the case is same in India too...its time to elect such posts to office by the people, whether it may be nominal in function or not... its not possible to say that these methods elect the people's choice."

Writing from Thailand, Hugo Zimmermann thinks the head of state should be chosen by the voters but wonders whether they can actually be bothered:

“Of course the German President should be elected by the people. But widespread disenchantment with the desperate, one could almost say amateurish, state of politics at the national level means they are unlikely to get very worked up about a vote for a president who is totally lacking in authority and influence.”

The editors of “People and Politics” reserve the right to abridge viewers’ letters.