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Germany

SPD chief reportedly favors theologian Käßmann as German presidency candidate

Social Democrat (SPD) chief Sigmar Gabriel wants to see Protestant theologian Margot Käßmann in the running to be Joachim Gauck's successor, German media has reported. The new president will be elected in February, 2017.

Several German newspapers belonging to the "Funke Media Group" reported on Wednesday that Social Democrat (SPD) chief and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel wants to see Margot Käßmann become a candidate for the German presidency.

According to Wednesday's reports, Käßmann is yet to confirm whether she wants to stand as a candidate to become Germany's 12th post-war president. Gabriel, however, has reportedly asked for a second meeting with Käßmann to discuss her candidacy further.

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 driving under the influence of alcohol.

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'Open-minded'

Left Party chairman Bernd Riexinger also confirmed on Wednesday that Gabriel had already discussed with the Left whether they would support Käßmann's potential candidacy.

Riexinger told German paper "Berliner Zeitung": "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."

At the same time, however, Riexinger said the leftists were not very enthusiastic about the public speculations about Käßmann.

"It would be regrettable if the Grand Coalition played tactical gimmicks with the Federal President's office or with Frau Käßmann," Riexinger said.

One-term Gauck

Despite the 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 (CSU).

Unlike the German chancellor, the German president chosen not by popular vote, but rather selected by what's known as the Federal Convention. It's comprised in equal parts of the Bundestag parliamentary delegates and representatives from Germany's sixteen federal states - thereby reflecting the relative strengths of Germany's political parties both nationwide and locally.

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 would not run for a second term as head of state.

Gauck, a former Lutheran pastor, said he was worried about his ability to continue devoting enough energy to the job if he continued into his eighties.

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

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