2017 German presidential election

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1260 members of the Federal Convention
631 votes needed to win
Nominee Frank-Walter Steinmeier Christoph Butterwegge
Party SPD Independent
Home state Berlin[a] North Rhine-Westphalia
Electoral vote 931 128
Percentage 73.89% 10.16%
Nominators SPD, CDU/CSU, Grüne, FDP, SSW Die Linke

President before election

Joachim Gauck

Elected President

Frank-Walter Steinmeier

An indirect presidential election (officially the 16th Federal Convention) was held on 12 February 2017 to elect the 12th President of Germany. Incumbent President Joachim Gauck announced on 6 June 2016 that he would not stand for re-election, citing his advancing age.[1]

The President is elected by the Federal Convention, an electoral body that consists of all members of the current Bundestag and an equal number of electors, who are elected by the sixteen state parliaments. Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the Social Democratic Party was chosen as the single candidate of the ruling coalition in November 2016; with the Christian Democratic Union choosing not to field a candidate against him, his election was seen as guaranteed.[2][3] Steinmeier was elected on the first ballot, and took office on 19 March 2017.[4]

Composition of the Federal Convention

The Bundesversammlung was composed as follows:[5]

Party Bundestag members State electors Total electors Percentage
CDU/CSU 309 230 539 42.8%
SPD 193 191 384 30.5%
Grüne 63 84 147 11.6%
Die Linke 64 31 95 7.5%
FDP 0 36 36 2.9%
AfD 0 35 35 2.8%
Piraten 0 11 11 0.9%
Freie Wähler 0 10 10 0.8%
SSW 0 1 1 0.1%
BVB/Freie Wähler 0 1 1 0.1%
Total 630 630 1260 100%
Composition of the Federal convention (party-line)
  Die Linke: 95
  SPD: 384
  Grüne: 147
  Piraten: 11
  SSW: 1
  BVB/Freie Wähler: 1
  Freie Wähler: 10
  FDP: 36
  CDU/CSU: 539
  AfD: 35
  Independent: 1

In the Federal Convention, a candidate needs a majority (at least 631 votes) to become President. If no candidate gets a majority of votes in the first two ballots, a plurality is sufficient on the third ballot.


Every member of the Federal Convention (members of the Bundestag and state electors, once they are elected by their respective state parliament) can propose candidates for the presidency. It is required that the President be a German citizen and at least 40 years old. Every candidate has to declare their consent to running. Candidates can be proposed before the Federal Convention and (theoretically) during the Convention before every ballot. If the President-elect is a member of a legislature or a government on federal or state level, he has to resign from that office before the start of their term. A sitting President is not allowed to run for a third consecutive term.

Chancellor Angela Merkel originally wanted to nominate Green politician Marianne Birthler, who succeeded Gauck as the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records from 2001 to 2011, and as the CDU/CSU and the Greens control a majority in the Federal Convention, Birthler's election would have been secured. However, Birthler after some time decided not to run.

On 14 November 2016 the governing parties CDU/CSU and the Social Democratic Party named the Minister of Foreign Affairs and former Vice Chancellor of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier as their consensus candidate. Alliance 90/The Greens and the Free Democratic Party endorsed Steinmeier. The other parties were considered likely to either endorse Steinmeier or name candidates of their own to express discontent with the consensus candidate. In any case Steinmeier was the clear favorite to win the election, because the parties endorsing his candidacy held more than 1000 votes in the Federal Convention.

Alternative for Germany proposed the former treasurer of Frankfurt Albrecht Glaser, and the Free Voters named the judge and TV celebrity Alexander Hold. Both were widely considered to have no real chance of winning the presidency, because their respective parties had few electors in the Federal Convention and it was unlikely that they would receive endorsements from other parties.[6][7] On 20 November 2016 The Left nominated political scientist Christoph Butterwegge.[8] Martin Sonneborn, member of the satirical party Die PARTEI and state elector (North Rhine-Westphalia) for the Pirate Party proposed his father, the retired career consultant Engelbert Sonneborn.[9]

Candidate Party Supporting party Office(s) held
Christoph Butterwegge Christoph Butterwegge (66) Independent The Left None
Albrecht Glaser Albrecht Glaser (75) Alternative for Germany AfD Treasurer of Frankfurt am Main
Other offices
Alexander Hold Alexander Hold (54) Free Voters FW
Member of the city council of Kempten
Engelbert Sonneborn (79) Independent Pirates None
Frank-Walter Steinmeier Frank-Walter Steinmeier (61) Social Democratic Party SPD
Alliance '90/The Greens
Minister of Foreign Affairs
(2005–2009; 2013–2017)
Other offices

Except for Sonneborn, all candidates were electors in the Federal Convention themselves. Steinmeier was a member of the current Bundestag, Butterwegge and Glaser were elected as state electors for Saxony[10] and Hold as state elector for Bavaria.[11]


The 16th Federal Convention elected Frank-Walter Steinmeier on the first ballot.[12] He entered office on 19 March 2017.[13]

Result of the vote
Candidate Party Supporting party First
Votes %
Frank-Walter Steinmeier Social Democratic Party SPD, CDU/CSU, Alliance '90/The Greens, FDP and SSW 931 73.89
Christoph Butterwegge Independent The Left 128 10.16
Albrecht Glaser Alternative for Germany AfD 42 3.33
Alexander Hold Free Voters Free Voters and BVB/FW 25 1.98
Engelbert Sonneborn Independent Pirates and Die PARTEI 10 0.79
Abstentions 103 8.17
Invalid votes 14 0.11
Total 1,253 99.44
Eligible voters 1,260 100


  1. ^ Kate Connolly (6 June 2016). "Headache for Angela Merkel as German president Joachim Gauck steps down". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  2. ^ Charter, David (13 February 2017). "Left wins presidency in new blow to Merkel". The Times. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  3. ^ "Legislators vote for Frank-Walter Steinmeier as president". Graphic News. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  4. ^ Election of the Federal President. Office of the Federal President. 12 February 2017. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  5. ^ Wilko Zicht, Martin Fehndrich und Matthias Cantow (12 February 2017). "Zusammensetzung der 16. Bundesversammlung" (in German). Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  6. ^ "AfD-Parteitag: AfD will saarländischen Landesverband auflösen". Die Zeit. 2016-04-30. ISSN 0044-2070. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  7. ^ Stefanie Wagner (2016-07-20). "Fernseh-Richter als Bundespräsidenten-Kandidat: Freie Wähler nominieren Alexander Hold" (in German). Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  8. ^ "Bundespräsidentenwahl: Linke will Armutsforscher Butterwegge ins Rennen schicken". SPIEGEL ONLINE. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  9. ^ Martin Sonneborn (6 February 2017). "Mein Vater könnte das". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  10. ^ "Sächsischer Landtag hat 34 Mitglieder der 16. Bundesversammlung gewählt". Parliament of Saxony. 13 December 2016. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  11. ^ "Landtag benennt 97 Delegierte für die Bundesversammlung". Parliament of Bavaria. 22 November 2016. Archived from the original on 25 November 2016. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  12. ^ "Bundespräsidentenwahl durch die 16. Bundesversammlung". 12 February 2017. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  13. ^ Election of the Federal President. Office of the Federal President. 12 February 2017. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  1. ^ Steinmeier was an incumbent Member of the Bundestag for a constituency in Brandenburg at the time of the election, but his primary residence was in Berlin-Zehlendorf.