Sunday, June 5, 2016

A Thankless Job: German President

This upcoming week....the President of Germany (Gauck) will give an indication that at the end of this term.....he will step down.  The rumor is that his wife suggested such because at his age (76), it is a bit stressful.

Germany runs a parliament-style government.  The Chancellor's position is the head political player and the actual chief executive of the government.

The President's role?  It's a ceremonial situation.  He makes speeches....rises above politics....travels internationally.....opens libraries....and openly represents the nation without all the political infighting.

Germans don't vote for the President....instead, it's the Bundestag that meets and between the CDU and SPD (the two centralist parties).....they pick one of their own and get support from the lesser parties as they meet and vote.

The President does have one unique that he can veto a law passed by the Bundestag....if he thinks it's unconstitutional.  I should note's yet to be used since 1949.

The guy usually picked?  It's usually a person with strong ethical boundaries, who hasn't damaged himself in political in-fighting within his party or against another party.

If you were wondering about a vice-president?  Well, there isn't such a position.  The president of the Bundestag would assume the job if called upon.

With the job, you get a fine residence (the Bellevue Palace on the west side of Berlin).  The pay is in the range of 200k Euro a year (Merkel is paid more if you were curious).

What this stepping down of Gauck will trigger?  This opens up a door where 18 months out from the federal election.....there's heated discussions between the two centralist parties.

You see....Christian Wulff of the CDU was 18 months into his job when accusations from a state prosecutor caused him to resign from the office (2012).  Two years into this prosecution deal....the judge finally squared away the charges, no conviction on any of these, and looked at the prosecutor and his boss.  State-run news limited their coverage of this event, but it's safe to say that both were going to face some kind of review over their practice of law and their behavior in public was an embarrassment.

CDU members remember the episode and have a bit of heartburn over how this was handled.

The thing is....if the SPD gets the Greens and the Linke Party lined up....they will get their replacement guy into the position.  This will feed the frenzy of the CDU and make it more difficult in the weeks ahead in conducting regular business in the Bundestag.

All of this political infighting and public viewing over the fight.....because of a marginalized position?  Yeah.

So over the next month, if you get the impression that politics are heated-up in Germany, this is the chief reason.

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