Merkel coalition meets to tap new German president

AFP, Saturday 18 Feb 2012

German Chancellor meets with party leaders of the ruling coalition as well as other parliamentary groups to reach consensus on a candidate to replace the scandal-hit president who resigned yesterday

German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Reichstag in Berlin June 30, 2010. (Photo:Reuters)

The parties in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government met Saturday to find a candidate to replace German president Christian Wulff, the day after he resigned over a corruption probe.

Merkel had talks with Horst Seehofer, head of the Bavarian sister party of her Christian Democratic Union, and Philipp Roesler of junior coalition partner the Free Democrats, as well as leaders of the parliamentary groups of all three parties.

No name emerged from the talks, which lasted only two hours, much shorter than expected, a source close to the government said, adding that this was "a very good sign."

Merkel said Friday she wanted a candidate who was also backed by opposition parties.

A member of the CDU and Merkel's hand-picked choice as head of state in 2010, Wulff, 52, had endured a barrage of negative media coverage since December largely over his links with wealthy businessmen.

He stepped down Friday after prosecutors sought the lifting of his legal immunity to probe allegations he had enjoyed favours from a film producer friend.

Merkel, who cancelled a trip to Rome Friday for eurozone crisis talks with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, said she would first speak to government parties and then the opposition to find a replacement.

Among possible successors to Wulff, a favourite is former pastor and East German dissident Joachim Gauck, who was the main opposition candidate in 2010.

Seehofer, as head of the upper Bundesrat parliamentary chamber, will assume the presidential duties until a new incumbent is elected within 30 days by a body comprising MPs and other dignitaries.

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