A few years ago he wanted to be chancellor and lost to Angela Merkel. Now Germany’s major parties agree: Frank-Walter Steinmeier should be the next federal president of Germany. He has been an important player in national politics for years, currently serving as foreign minister for the grand governing coalition between the SPD and Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU). It is the most recent job for the 60-year-old, who can boast nearly 20 years of political experience, having served as chancellery minister, SPD chief, and foreign minister under a previous Merkel-led coalition government as well. For many Germans, he is the face of Germany to the world. When, as is very likely, he takes over from Joachim Gauck as federal president early next year, it will be as an already well-known figure.
Germany’s most respected politician
Steinmeier possesses traits befitting the position. He is well-respected across party lines and around the world, an experienced diplomat and has been tested by repeated crises. Polling has for years shown him to be one of Germany’s most respected politicians. A recent survey conducted by the ARD public broadcaster showed him with an approval rating of 72 percent, likely a critical point in his favor during the weeks’ long hemming and hawing among the parties as they negotiated a candidate.
Analysts are not surprised that Steinmeier, the son of a carpenter from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, is interested in the country’s highest position in public service. The nearly quarter of a million miles he flies every year as foreign minister already gives him a presidential air. He emerged as a particularly prominent figure during the Ukraine crisis, engaging in intense shuttle diplomacy between Kyiv and Moscow that helped deescalate the conflict. His measured words then stand in contrast to his recent headline-worthy remarks on US President-elect Donald Trump, whom he called a “preacher of hate.”
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