Published: 16 November 2016 Wednesday, 10:00 PM
Bonn, Non 16 (deutschenews24.de/dpa) -- Foreign Minister and presidential hopeful Frank-Walter Steinmeier - a Social Democrat (SPD) regularly ranked as one of Germany`s most popular politicians - is "the right candidate in these times," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday.
Merkel - head of the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) - was speaking at the Bundestag, Germany`s lower house of parliament, alongside Horst Seehofer, head of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), and SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel.
After the three politicians, whose parties form Merkel`s grand coalition, endorsed Steinmeier as their candidate for the presidency, the foreign minister said he was "honoured to be put forward for the state`s highest office in these truly stormy times."
Steinmeier cited Britain`s decision to leave the European Union, the election of Donald Trump in the United States and the aftermath of Turkey`s failed coup attempt as examples of global upheaval.
"[These events] have shaken us, but they can also jolt us awake," Steinmeier said, adding that German society needs a "lively, alert political culture."
"That is something I want to work on across party lines, and more importantly across social lines; a political culture which allows us to argue with one another, but also treat each other respectfully," he said.
All three governing parties have lost votes in recent years to the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD), which launched in 2013 on a eurosceptic platform but has since shifted towards anti-immigration policies.
The AfD already sits in 10 of Germany`s 16 state parliaments, and is likely to win a significant number of seats in the Bundestag in next year`s parliamentary election.
Although the role of German president is largely ceremonial, the candidate is meant to represent Germany internationally. The presidency is therefore hotly contested between rival parties.
Merkel has come under fire from within the ranks of her conservative political bloc for agreeing to endorse a candidate from the SPD - its traditional rival - ahead of a general election next year.