Germany's former Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has censured US President Donald Trump, is the overwhelming favorite to win a parliamentary assembly election and become the next president.
Reports on Saturday said Steinmeier, who last year called Trump one of the world's "hate preachers," topped the list of favorites for the Sunday election.
Germany's parliamentary assembly, comprised of 630 lawmakers from Bundestag's lower house and an equal number of representatives from the country's 16 states, will elect the new president as incumbent Joachim Gauck, now 77, has announced that he would not seek a second five-year term because of his age.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, a so-called grand coalition of center-right and center-left parties, has already declared support for Steinmeier. Two main parties in the coalition hold 923 seats in the assembly, which should assure Steinmeier's election. Four other candidates also contest the Sunday vote.
Steinmeier is himself from the Social Democrats, the junior partner in Merkel's coalition. He failed in his 2009 bid to unseat Merkel, but has remained a very popular politician. He grabbed the headlines last year, when he strongly criticized Trump during the US election campaign. The 61-year-old said in August that incidents such as Trump's election were parts of "truly political earthquakes," which "shake us, but they can also shake us awake."
As president, Steinmeier would enjoy little executive power and would be considered an important moral authority.
The vote in the assembly may be one of the last moments of unity between Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union and the center-left Social Democrats as the two are expected to fiercely challenge each other in parliamentary elections in September. The Social Democrats hope to thwart Merkel's fourth bid in the vote as the coalition partners have announced that they want to finally end the so-called grand coalition.