Why Germany's Landslide Presidential Election Is So Important

Even though the role is largely ceremonial, Frank-Walter Steinmeier's election represents so much more.

Germany, largely considered the most powerful defender left of western liberal democracy, has thus far been able to resist the current of right-wing populism sweeping other European nations. But concerns about Chancellor Angela Merkel's chances of victory in this year's upcoming election indicate that even Germany is at risk of buckling to nationalism and xenophobia. For those who have managed to remain optimistic amid the barrage of objectively bad news these days, however, this past weekend's election of Frank-Walter Steinmeier as German president should be cause for hope and celebration. 

Elected by a landslide margin by the parliamentary assembly, Steinmeier's win is a powerful signal of Germany's commitment to its values of an open and tolerant democracy. Steinmeier was a vocal critic of lawmakers he said who "make politics with fear," like those who fomented the U.K.'s "Brexit."

The position, which requires Steinmeier to represent Germany abroad, is largely ceremonial, but according to the BBC, carries "moral weight."


Golden Brown / Shutterstock

The draw of right-wing populism has proved itself more potent than anything polls or pundits predicted. White supremacists have become bolder and more powerful, as hate crimes towards minorities increase. While it remains to be seen if Germany will resist the pull of the far-right, judging by Steinmeier's election, its leaders intend on putting up a fight. 

In his acceptance speech, Steinmeier pointed to the country's history of overcoming fascism and division, and said it was "wonderful" that Germany was now the "anchor of hope in the world for many." Encouraging Germany to stand up to similar threats today, Steinmeier urged: "Let's be brave, because then we don't have to be afraid of the future."

Cover image via 4kclips / Shutterstock


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