Germany: President Gauck seeks to reconcile citizens with political class

Presseurop Der Spiegel

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"The preacher – How Joachim Gauck wants to change the country," runs the headline in German weekly Der Spiegel following the election to the German presidency of the 72-year old former pastor from East Germany. With 991 votes out of 1240, the ballot was a plebiscite for the man who gained national popularity by presiding over the opening up of the archives of the Stasi, the East German secret police.

Noting that Chancellor Angela Merkel did not back Gauck's candidacy, Spiegel writes that there are high expectations regarding this president, who is independent of all political parties. Having backed Gauck since June 2010, the Hamburg weekly wonders what influence this "apostle of freedom" will exercise in his new, purely honorific, post -

With his ideas on freedom, the new president will polarise the Republic. Unlike his predecessors, Gauck has no intention of paying tribute to the zeitgeist. Thus, he will inevitably become an opponent of the chancellor.

Reconciliation seems to appeal to the Italians also. According to an opinion poll published by La Repubblica, the demand for a "president without a party" continues to grow. Despite tensions around a project to reform labour markets, 60% of those polled have confidence in Prime Minister Mario Monti – a figure rarely achieved by any PM. The same percentage says that "caretaker" leaders are more capable of leading the country than are "political experts".

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