New Bundesprasident Joachim Gauck

Why did she fight tooth & nail to keep him out?

Late night, the German media reported the proposal of Joachim Gauck as the new German President by the CDU/FDP, Greens and SPD. The imputation of the coverage is that this is a cross-Party agreement about a largely decorative role. But The Slog has learned that it was anything but.

A more recent German source – codename Zeitung – has kindly filled me in. And in addition, the Bankfurt Maulwurf had a few comments to add.

Chancellor Angela Merkel did not want Gauck at any price – this despite the fact that opinion polls show he is a popular choice. Frau Merkel has a track record of trying to keep Glauck out of office. In 2010, Gauck had been the Opposition’s candidate: but the now disgraced Christian Wulff took three ballots back then (and a lot of Merkelite arm-twisting) to get the Presidency from which he was forced to resign last week.

The weekend meetings to choose a successor to Wulff were fraught to say the least. Merkel proposed a number of coalition loyalists. Anybody but Gauck, it seems. Merkel’s resistance to Gauck was so pronounced, in the end it took threats by the Free Democrats to withdraw from Merkel’s Coalation before she agreed – under extreme duress.

The FPD is a party in a similar position to the UK’s LibDems: if it forced a General Election, it would be almost entirely wiped out. Yet its leadership still went right to the wire to get their man.

What is it that worries Merkel so much about Herr Gauck? And why are the Opposition Parties so determined that he shall have the Presidency?

Like so many things in the Chancellor’s life ‘history’, despite the air-brushing employed by those around her, former Osti Merkel appears to have been a very active supporter of Erich Hoeneker’s Communist DDR….as The Slog reported some weeks ago.

The problem for Geli is that the 72-year old Gauck was a leading (and very influential) dissident pastor in the DDR. Angela Merkel’s father the late Horst Kasner was also a DDR pastor….however, he was anything but dissident. He chose to join the DDR in the 1950s (although living at the time in the West). Several former Ostis have openly accused him of being a Stasi agent.

Here’s the additional tricky bit for the German Chancellor: post-unification, Joachim Gauck was put in charge of investigating the Stasi archives during the 1990s. There is probably no-one better placed – both pre and post unification – to know about Merkel’s activities under the Communist regime. He would certainly, through his role in the protestant church, have known all about Pastor Kasner and his daughter Angela. And what he didn’t know from that would anyway have been available to him as the man in charge of the Stasi archives.

Merkel has always maintained that her role in the DDR’s Youth Movement was a minor one involving the organisation of social engagements. But people who were there say the good Frau Doktor is being modest: she was actually the Movement’s head of Propaganda…..and a hardline Stalinist disciplinarian.


What makes the story particularly interesting is that the other Parties were as keen to have Joachim Gauck as the Chancellor was desperate not to. A point I put to the Bankfurt Maulwurf this morning – in passing.

“There is of course a lot of rubbish printed about the Chancellor’s past,” he conceded, “but there is no doubt that Mrs Merkel is sensitive about the subject of her years in the DDR. There are some journalists and, when they have questioned her about it, afterwards they suddenly stop being granted any more interviews. I think Joachim Gauck probably represents another such case. She prefers Presidents in her pocket, not the other way round. I know that one or two mavericks in the FPD think she is out of control. So it could well be that, unofficially, Gauck will fulfil that role.

As it happens, I was giving the Maulwurf a hard time about his denial of the Schaubling default plan story….which now turns out to be true. But more on that anon.

To fully understand this piece, you really need to look at….

Related: Will the real Angela Merkel ever stand up?