Germany swore in former International Monetary Fund chief Horst Köhler as its ninth postwar president Thursday, in a ceremony steeped in national tradition at the Reichstag parliament building.
Taking the oath of office as Germany's head of state
Köhler, the nominee of the opposition conservative Christian Union and the liberal free Democrats, took the solemn oath of office before parliament following his election by a special assembly last month.
"I swear that I will use my strength for the good of the German people, to increase its benefits and avert damage to it, to protect and defend the Basic Law and the laws of the country, to conscientiously fulfill my duties and practice justice toward every
man," he said.
Köhler, 61, defeated the candidate of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's ruling center-left government. He has said he would make Germany's social and economic renewal the focus of his presidency. The German head of state has little formal political power but serves as a kind of moral arbiter and international ambassador for the country.
Köhler took the oath using an original copy of the 1949 Basic Law, which established Germany as a constitutional democracy after World War II.
He replaced the Social Democrat Johannes Rau, who distinguished himself during his five-year term as a critic of unbridled globalization and social alienation.
"We should not only remember what makes a society humane in times of misfortune and crises," said Rau, 73.
He shed tears as he received a standing ovation for his years of service from the assembled members of both houses of parliament. The ceremony was held at the Reichstag building, which has become a symbol of German democracy since it was renovated by British architect Sir Norman Foster before the government moved to Berlin from Bonn in 1999.