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Gauck 'cannot meet all expectations'

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Photo: DPA
11:44 CET+01:00
New German president Joachim Gauck tried to dampen the huge expectations Germans have for him - and despite one hysterical headline, newspapers agreed he cannot be all things to all people. The Local's media roundup surveys opinion.

Gauck told the country in his acceptance speech on Sunday it had not elected "a saviour or a holy man or an angel, but a person from the middle part of the population." He emphasized that he has "rough edges and can't do everything."

Gauck, a former pastor, said he wanted to motivate people to take responsibility - especially people who don't vote. He also wants to stand for freedom and responsibility and said that meant "social responsibility, integration and European solidarity."

He said he had made freedom a key point because in Germany "unlike in the USA or Poland - it is too little respected here." Gauck intends to go to Poland for his first official state visit.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung gave its editorial the headline President Moses and wrote that "even when some think Joachim Gauck is a political Moses, the new president will not transform Germany into a pastor's house."

The paper went on to write that following the disappointing experience of Gauck's predecessors – both of whom resigned – the hope was that Germany "will be disappointed in by an acceptable amount" with the choice of Gauck. The paper noted that Gauck would not be able to fix everything

"With Chancellor [Angela] Merkel and President Gauck there are now two east Germans leading our country, the Leipziger Volkszeitung wrote. "This shows a piece of normalcy on the way toward unity." The paper said it was now up to Gauck to use the "enormous confidence bonus" he received to work as a go-between between politics and society and between east and west."

It is Gauck's job to restore "dignity and appreciation" to the presidential post and for citizens to take up Gauck's invitation to get involved in the process. "When both of these are even only partially achieved, then yesterday really was a beautiful Sunday," the paper wrote referring to how Gauck described the day in his acceptance speech.

Noting that the presidential office is largely a ceremonial post with no political powers, the business daily Handelsblatt said Gauck should use his new job "to teach the powerful about being moral in office and having loyalty to the country." The paper said it was up to Gauck to show the country what it could learn from a president, noting that in her two previous choices for the office, Chancellor Angela Merkel had failed to find someone who was able to lead effectively.

While it is rare that a president is elected with such an "enormous majority," the populist Bild Zeitung wrote, "the single drop of bitterness was the 108 abstentions, that no doubt came from Gauck's own supporting camp.” Although it did not explain why this would be the case, the paper said it did not matter.

“A weakened president? That's all nonsense." The paper noted that it would have been impossible for Gauck to achieve a 99 percent support rate, as was typical in East Germany. "A freely elected president doesn't need that," the paper said.

Bild went on to write that "Gauck is not a consensus president, but one who wants some fresh wind but also some headwind. Therefore he says things that are often forgotten: Freedom is not a matter of course, but requires a lot from everyone." The paper clearly believes the 72-year-old ex-pastor is up to the job.

Story continues below…

Germans have high expectations for the new president, wrote the Hamburger Abendblatt, noting that it would be impossible for Gauck to meet them all. Some two-thirds of Germans expect Gauck to stand up for the weaker elements of society, while a similar proportion expects the new president to speak his mind to politicians.

The most important topics for Gauck to embrace are freedom and family, according to 75 percent of Germans, the paper wrote, while 65 percent expect him to fight the financial crisis. What is clear is that "the Germans are hoping for an authority like the president who can do some clear talking. At the same time it's clear that he won't be able to please everyone,” the paper concludes.

The Local/mw

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