Tue, May 27, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Germany’s Koehler may face former rival again

PROLONGED STANDOFFGesine Schwan, who narrowly lost to Koehler in 2004, is likely to be nominated by the Social Democrats for the largely ceremonial presidency

AP , BERLIN

Germany’s center-left Social Democrats were expected to nominate a challenger to conservative German President Horst Koehler yesterday, setting the stage for a prolonged political standoff before next year’s general elections.

Koehler last week said he would seek re-election when his first term ends next May — about four months before parliamentary elections in which both halves of conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing left-right “grand coalition” hope to end their bad-tempered alliance.

Koehler is a member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats. The Social Democrats, who make up the other half of Merkel’s coalition, have made clear they plan to nominate university professor Gesine Schwan, who narrowly lost to Koehler in 2004.

The nomination would likely lead to a politically charged campaign with risks for both sides.

The president — whose role is largely ceremonial — is elected by an assembly of lawmakers and state delegates. The center-right grouping that elected Koehler in 2004 may lack a majority there by next May.

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