Köhler shocked Merkel’s Christian Democrat-led government on Monday by resigning only one year into his second term. The largely ceremonial head of state said he had wrongly faced a barrage of criticism for his comments seemingly linking German military missions abroad and the country’s economic interests.
The chancellor was to meet with Horst Seehofer, head of her conservative Bavarian allies (CSU), and Guido Westerwelle, leader of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP). According to government sources cited by news agency DPA, the three had planned to discuss health reform, but will now focus on finding Köhler’s replacement.
According to the German constitution, the new president must be installed within the next 30 days by the Federal Convention, which is made up members of the lower house of parliament and officials from Germany’s 16 states.
Although her centre-right alliance likely has enough votes to push through a partisan candidate, Merkel told public broadcaster ARD on Monday evening that her government hoped to find someone “who has a chance to be accepted by everyone.”
Sigmar Gabriel, head of the centre-left opposition Social Democrats (SPD), urged Merkel to discuss potential presidential candidates with all parties in parliament. “It should be somebody not only involved in party politics,” he said. “Otherwise the Social Democrats, possibly together with others in the German Bundestag, will propose an alternative candidate.”
Several members of Merkel’s Christian Democrats are potential nominees for the highest office in the country, including Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Lower Saxony’s state premier Christian Wulff.
Social Democrats have brought up the name of Gesine Schwan, an academic who ran twice against Köhler for the presidency but lost.