Germany has new Queen, needs new President.

Earlier today, German President Horst Köhler resigned, effective immediately (BBC coverage). His constitutional successor, and now German acting head of state is Social Democrat Jens Boehrnsen, who is the mayor of the state of Bremen and in this function speaker of the parliament’s upper chamber (Bundesrat). A new President will have to be elected by a special constitutional assembly, the Bundesversammlung, within 30 days. Despite Germany’s Presidency being largely ceremonial, and even though Mr Köhler was a generally popular President during his first term and reelected for a second five-year term in 2009, he recently came under attack for lacking a certain inspirational aura, and, worse for someone who was director of the IMF, lacking intellectual leadership in financially troubled times.

Mr Köhler’s resignation may not be sufficiently bad news to kill the national celebration following Lena Meyer-Landruth’s victory in the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest – and the World Cup is around the corner. But his claim that his resignation over an interview that he should not have given – he stated that an export-orientated country like Germany may need to deploy troops to protect its economic interests which unsurprisingly caused a lot of confusion given German history and the obvious unpopularity of military deployments – was “inevitable” because of the dignity of the office seems a bit hyperbolic and thus more as yet another display of what many people have begun to worry about: nine months after taking office, the German government is increasingly in disarray, both conceptually and electorally. In a recent poll, only three per cent of the Germans said they would vote for the junior coalition partner, the Free Democrats, which means they lost about 10% of the vote since last September.

Sure, this is only a snap shot, but it’s also a bit more – it’s fundamental disappointment about this government’s performance from day one on. The parties’ as well as the government’s competence in a number of important areas, notably economics, is challenged on a daily basis. Even members of Parliament are complaining publicly that they are supposed to simply sign off on economic legislation they don’t understand and that the government apparently isn’t able to explain. Imagine how the average voter must feel.

So maybe Mr Köhler’s resignation was a last act of leadership. The debate about who will succeed him will likely be a little different from the usual backroom coalition decisions about who will become President. It will likely become a rather public debate about leadership in difficult times. And that’s both good, and a problem, since the amount of people who may be up to the job and fit the political requirements is rather limited.

Off the top of my mind, I really can’t think of anyone but current finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble. So let’s help Angela Merkel and make the contest a bit more exciting with a little short list of our own – who’s your best bet for “Germany’s next President”?

13 thoughts on “Germany has new Queen, needs new President.

  1. He is the logical choice. The other obvious candidates are in opposition parties. Again coming up with somebody virtually unknown would be too much.
    The next best alternative might be to do the judge thing again and nominate an ex-judge of the constitutional court, which would mean Hans-Jürgen Papier.

  2. Oh my god! You guys can’t be serious by thinking about electing Schäuble as next President!

    Although he does a fairly decent job as finance minister, he is still the same person that pushed for the huge reforms in the field of public safety during his time as secretary of the interior.

    And it is common knowledge, that many of his ideas collided with German Basic Law such that the constitutional court removed them.

    He is regarded as politician that doesn’t care about constitutional privacy rights and is easily willing to change german basic law in order to get his idea of an 1985 surveillance society.

    Hans-Jürgen Papier, as former judge under whose watch many of Schäubles Anti-Privacy-Laws were rejected would be a much better choice than Schäuble himself.

    Another good call would be former chancellor Helmut Schmidt. The fact that he retired along time ago and is maybe to old for a comeback is actually a good argument for him. He likes to call a spade a spade and would be a good moral leader.

  3. “So let’s help Angela Merkel and make the contest a bit more exciting with a little short list of our own”

    Well, exciting rather than a decent bet: Charles Windsor.

    Oh, go on, why not, he’s more German than he is anything else……

  4. Oliver,

    yeah, Papier sounds like an option. Will be easier to sell to the F.D.P.. Schmidt is over 90 and certainly not crazy enough to even contemplate this… as for Schäuble, I met him and decided that his mindset is that of a conservative who believes that increasing virtualisation of life means increasing lack of immediate social control which he seems to believe needs to be counteracted by preventive legal measures to keep society from falling apart. It’s a deeply flawed point of view, in my opinion, but it’s not an anti-constitutional one. And his point of view wouldn’t matter that much as President.

    But I’d say Charles Windsor seems like an excellent option if he can become a legal German within 30 days. That would be a great solution for Germany, England, Europe, Prince Charles and the Queen! Someone should really start a facebook meme about this ;)

  5. Schäuble for president!

    a) Mr. S. tenure as finance minister is (thus far) an uninspired desaster.

    b) Hs job as president would be to give speeches nobody listens to.

    An obvious case for retaliation by promotion.

  6. “But I’d say Charles Windsor seems like an excellent option if he can become a legal German within 30 days.”

    He qualifies by blood doesn’t he?

  7. Schäuble is a shameless crook – the idea of him taking Richard von Weizsäcker’s old job is nauseating. You might as will give it to Roland Koch.

    I was going to suggest Christa Wolf, but I guess being an ex-IM is a disqualifying condition. Then I remembered that Stefan Heym was an MP for a while…but he’s dead. Although, I’m not certain that being dead is that much of a handicap for a Bundespräsident.

    Obviously, there’s only one man who can truly claim the respect of all Germans and indeed Europeans. Jürgen Klinsmann!

  8. If a politician, Joschka Fischer, if an intellectual, Juergen Habermas, and in the middle, Richard Schroeder.