Coalition smarts after presidential nomination fight | News | DW | 20.02.2012
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Coalition smarts after presidential nomination fight

Although rights activist Joachim Gauck garnered multiparty support, his presidential candidacy came at a cost within Chancellor Merkel's coalition. The CDU gave up its opposition only under pressure from the FDP.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right coalition was smarting on Monday after an internal fight over the nomination of Joachim Gauck for the German presidency.

Michael Kretschmer, the deputy parliamentary leader of Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), said that the pro-market Free Democrats (FDP) had damaged the trust between the governing parties, adding that there would be consequences for future cooperation within the coalition.

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A divisive choice

"This behavior is symptomatic for the condition of the FDP," Kretschmer told the regional newspaper Leipziger Volkszeitung, adding that old FDP heavyweights like the former foreign ministers Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Klaus Kinkel would have never acted that way.

The FDP unanimously supported Gauck despite initial opposition from the CDU. Members of the CDU were concerned that a Gauck nomination would be viewed as a defeat for Chancellor Merkel, since the rights activist also enjoyed strong support among the opposition center-left Social Democrats and environmental Greens.

'Difficult decision'

The FDP parliamentary chief in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, Wolfgang Kubicki, defended his party's support for Gauck, denying that the nominee was the candidate of the opposition.

"The chancellor herself had made it a requirement that we find a candidate who would get a large majority at the Federal Convention and also had a reputation among the people," Kubicki said. "That was and is Joachim Gauck."

High-ranking coalition officials sought to play down the importance of the initial disagreement over Gauck's nomination. Development minister and FDP politician Dirk Niebel said that people "should not interpret things into this personnel decision that are not there."

The CDU's General Secretary Hermann Gröhe called on the coalition to move on and put tensions behind them.

"The dignity of the office and also the prestige of Joachim Gauck should prohibit us from re-opening a difficult decision," Gröhe told the German broadcaster ZDF. "We as a coalition have a common assignment that we will reliably fulfill."

Parliament president Norbert Lammert said on Monday that the Federal Convention would convene on March 18 to vote on Gauck's nomination. The Federal Convention consists of all 620 German parliamentarians as well as 620 delegates from Germany's 16 states.

mz,slk/dfm (dpa, DAPD, Reuters)

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