Germany's new President Joachim Gauck has begun his official duties, one day after his election.
In Berlin's Bellevue Palace Joachim Gauck met with his predecessor, Christian Wulff, who had stepped down in February, and with Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer, who had served briefly as Germany's interim head of state following Wulff's departure.
That resignation had followed a decision by public prosecutors in Hanover in mid-February to launch a probe into allegations that Wulff had benefited from financial favors when he was previously premier of the state of Lower Saxony.
Gauck arrived in Bellevue palace in downtown Berlin with his partner, Daniela Schadt, a 52-year-old journalist from Nuremburg. At the weekend, Schadt dismissed previous calls by conservative German politicians that Gauck as incoming president should divorce his estranged wife, with whom he has four children, and marry her. Gauck and Schadt have been partners for the past 12 years.
Schadt told the tabloid Bild am Sonntag that while she respected the institution of marriage she and Gauck had no intention of marrying just for reasons of diplomatic protocol. The Federal Republic had other problems, she added.
On Sunday, Gauck won 991 votes in the Federal Assembly, a special body comprising members of the Bundestag parliament and delegates from Germany's 16 regions, which over the past six decades has elected Germany's heads of state. His main rival, veteran anti-Nazi campaigner Beate Klarsfeld, the candidate of the Left Party, got 126 votes.
An 'uncomfortable' choice
Recent surveys show that up to 80 percent of Germans favor Gauck as president. German newspaper commentators Monday agreed that he would be an "uncomfortable" president for Germany's established political parties.
Gauck studied theology, became a Lutheran pastor and emerged in the tense years before the fall of the Berlin Wall as spokesman for "New Forum," a network which demanded democratic reforms.
From 1990 until 2000, in the initial phase of German reunification, Gauck headed the agency that opened the archives of the dreaded Stasi, the East German secret police, and made its misdeeds public. He once described himself as a "conservative from the liberal left."
Following his election on Sunday the new head of state referred back to his own history.
"I take up this post with the endless gratitude of a person who, after a long trek through the political desert of the 20th century, has finally and unexpectedly found his home again and was able to witness in the last 20 years the joy of shaping a democratic society," Gauck said.
He also indicated that he would continue the efforts of his predecessor Wulff to improve the integration of migrants.
Gauck is to be sworn in before the Bundestag and the upper house, the Bundesrat, on Friday.
ipj/mz (dpa, afpd)