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POLITICS

German President Steinmeier moves closer to second term

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is poised to be elected for a second five-year term in the largely ceremonial role as he secured the backing of the ruling Green party on Tuesday.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP Pool | Michael Sohn

First appointed president in 2017, Social Democrat (SPD) Steinmeier, 65, last year said he would like to run again when Germany elects its next president on February 13th.

The Greens, who are part of a new three-way coalition government with the SPD and the liberal FDP, said in a statement they would be recommending that their MPs vote for him.

Steinmeier is a “very good and highly respected federal president who has rendered great service to our country during his first term”, they said.

The FDP has also said it will back Steinmeier.

The office of president is a symbolic role in Germany providing a counterpart to the head of government, currently Chancellor Olaf Scholz, also a Social Democrat.

One of Germany’s most popular and trusted politicians, Steinmeier was appointed as head of state after extended stints as foreign minister and chief of staff for former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

With his snowy white hair, round glasses and dimpled smile, Steinmeier is a trained lawyer with a reputation for being diplomatic and measured in his speech.

Announcing his desire to run for a second term last year, Steinmeier said being president had been an “honour” and an “enormous challenge”.

Presidents can run for a maximum of two terms in Germany, though Steinmeier would be only the fourth person to be re-elected to the role.

READ ALSO: ‘Germany is a country with a migrant background,’ says President Steinmeier

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POLITICS

‘Winter of rage’: Experts warn of riots in Germany due to rising energy costs

Experts are warning that economic hardship may lead to protests throughout Germany in autumn and winter - and that they could be infiltrated by right-wing extremists.

'Winter of rage': Experts warn of riots in Germany due to rising energy costs

In view of rising energy costs, supply difficulties, growing unemployment and general pessimism about the future, authorities in Germany are warning that there will be mass protests this year – and that these are likely to be abused by extremists.

The warnings come from civil servants from the federal offices for the Protection of the Constitution or Bundesverfassungsschutz – Germany’s watchdog for safeguarding free democracy at the federal level and in the 16 states.

Stephan Kramer, president of Thuringia’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, told German broadcaster ZDF that, following the pandemic and the world events of recent months, there is a “highly emotionalised, aggressive, future-pessimistic mood” among the population, “whose trust in the state, its institutions and political actors is tainted by massive doubts”.

He expects that “legitimate protests” will be infiltrated by extremists, especially those from the so-called Querdenker (lateral thinking) scene and that it is likely that some will turn violent.

READ ALSO: How Germany is saving energy ahead of uncertain winter

“What we have experienced so far in the Covid pandemic in terms of partly violent confrontations on social networks, but also in the streets and squares, was probably more like a children’s birthday party in comparison,” Kramer said.

The head of Hamburg’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Torsten Voß, told the Funke Mediengruppe that he expects “extremist conspiracy ideologues and other enemies of the constitution” will try to abuse protests for their ideological purposes.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, he said “a spectrum of radical opponents of vaccination and so-called Covid deniers have built up a protest infrastructure, with contacts and channels for mobilisation”. This group will try to use this infrastructure for the energy security protests in the autumn, he said.

READ ALSO: German households could see ‘four-digit’ rise in energy costs this winter

Brandenburg’s head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Jörg Müller, also fears that extremists could exploit the energy crisis and high inflation fears for their own purposes.

“Extremists dream of a German winter of rage” he told Welt am Sonntag. “They hope that the energy crisis and price increases will hit people particularly hard so that they can pick up on the mood and advertise their anti-state aspirations. We are following these goings-on with watchful eyes and open ears.”

Vocabulary:

Constitution – (die) Verfassung

Rage – (die) Wut

Violent – gewalttätig

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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