German President Steinmeier says he will seek a 2nd term


BERLIN — German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced Friday that he will seek a second term, saying he wants to help heal divisions widened by the coronavirus pandemic.

Steinmeier made his pitch for another five years as Germany’s head of state four months before the country elects a new parliament, which will have a large say in whether he keeps the job.

In February, an assembly made up of the members of parliament’s lower house and representatives of Germany’s 16 states will choose the next president. Steinmeier’s current term ends in March.

Before becoming president, Steinmeier served two stints as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s foreign minister and previously was chief of staff to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. The 65-year-old comes from the center-left Social Democrats, the junior partner in Merkel’s current government, but is widely respected across the mainstream political spectrum.

Germany’s president has little executive power but is considered an important moral authority. After a messy parliamentary election result in 2017, Steinmeier helped prod politicians to form a new coalition government rather than holding out for a new vote.

“A president doesn’t set the political direction, I am well aware of that, but a president can build bridges,” Steinmeier said Friday.

“The pandemic has inflicted deep wounds. It has brought suffering and grief, economic and psychological distress, and a great deal of frustration and bitterness,” he said. “I would like to help heal these wounds.”

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