Berlin: Activist pastor Joachim Gauck was
elected German president by an overwhelming majority today,
marking the first time a candidate from the former communist
east will be head of state.
Gauck, 72, claimed 991 votes out of 1,232 from a special
assembly of MPs and other dignitaries, parliamentary speaker
Norbert Lammert said, against prominent Nazi hunter Beate
Klarsfeld, 73, who was nominated as a protest candidate by the
far-left party Die Linke.
"What a beautiful Sunday," Gauck said to enthusiastic
applause from the chamber of the glass-domed Reichstag
parliament building in central Berlin after the vote.
It was the third presidential election in three years for
Germany after the abrupt resignations of Gauck`s two
Gauck helped drive the peaceful revolution that brought
down communist East Germany and later fought to ensure that
the public would be granted access to the vast stash of files
left behind by the despised Stasi secret police after
reunification in 1990.
He oversaw the archive for the next decade.
In a short acceptance speech, he noted that his election
fell on the 22nd anniversary of the first free elections in
East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall the previous
"After 26 years of dictatorship we were finally able to
become citizens," he said. "I knew then that I would never
miss another election."
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also grew up under
communism, gave her backing to the plain-spoken Lutheran
pastor in February after then president Christian Wulff
stepped down amid a flurry of corruption allegations dating
from his time as a state premier.
Wulff only served 20 months of his five-year term in
He had replaced Horst Koehler, a former head of the
International Monetary Fund who bowed out after an uproar over
comments he made appearing to justify using the military to
serve Germany`s economic interests.
Claudia Roth, co-leader of the opposition Greens party,
which supported Gauck`s candidacy along with the rest of
Germany`s mainstream parties, said the country was looking to
Gauck to "give this badly damaged office dignity and respect
A poll for ARD public television released yesterday
indicated that 80 percent of respondents consider him to be
The media and the public cheered his candidacy as an
opportunity to remove some of the tarnish from the largely
ceremonial office which serves as a kind of moral compass for