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Joachim Gauck elected as Germany's new president

Joachim Gauck, 72, a former East German dissident and Lutheran pastor, has been elected German president after Christian Wulff stepped down last month amid scandal.

Joachim Gauck German presidentEnlarge
German President Joachim Gauck is seen after being elected in the German lower house of parliament Bundesta in Berlin on March 18, 2012. Gauck, 72, claimed 991 votes out of 1,232 from a special assembly of MPs and other dignitaries, parliamentary speaker Norbert Lammert said, against prominent Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld, 73, who was nominated as a protest candidate by the far-left party Die Linke. (ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Joachim Gauck, a former East German dissident and Lutheran pastor, has been elected German president, reported CNN. He replaces Christian Wulff, who, after only 20 months in office, resigned last month amid scandal after he was accused of financial impropriety and doing political favors for associates while he was state premier of Lower Saxony.

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The scandal embarrassed Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, who hand-picked Wulff as her candidate when he ran for the presidency in 2010 against Gauck, according to the Daily Telegraph. Although largely a ceremonial role, the German presidency is expected to set a high ethical standard and steer clear of controversy.

Gauck, 72, is an outspoken advocate of democracy and civil rights and was backed by most major parties, reported the Associated Press. He received 991 of the 1,232 votes cast. The ex-communist Left party's candidate Beate Klarsfeld secured 126 votes, the far right NPD party's candidate Olaf Rose got only three, and there were 108 abstentions.

"I accept this duty. After the long political meanders of the 20th century, I do so with the infinite gratefulness of a person who has finally and unexpectedly found his home again and who had the pleasure of participating in a democratic society over the past 20 years," Gauck told the assembly, according to the AP. "Very certainly I won't be able to live up to all expectations. But there is one thing I can promise: I say yes with all of my force and with my heart that I will carry out the responsibility you entrusted to me today."

East German secret police files described Gauck as an "incorrigible anti-communist," reported the Telegraph. He became a prominent figure in Germany during protests against the old communist state in 1989 when he was one of the leaders of the democratic movement.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/germany/120318/joachim-gauck-elected-germanys-new-president