Is Huckabee not the only preacher running for president?
Could there be another preacher running for president? Not in the United States — it’s too late in the primary cycle for that and Mike Huckabee is already in the race there anyway. No, the talk is about a new candidate in Germany. The vote isn’t due until May 2009 but the country’s top Lutheran bishop is being tipped as a possible next head of state.
Bishop Wolfgang Huber, 65, has what it takes for the figurehead post (the real power lies with the chancellor in Germany’s parliamentary system). The Bundespräsident (Federal President) should be a distinguished personality who can represent the country well and give suitably serious speeches on the appropriate occasions. Huber, who is bishop of Berlin-Brandenburg, is equally at ease giving a long lecture at a university (he’s a former theology professor) or a few quick soundbites for television. He also has leadership experience, being the head of the umbrella group of Protestant churches called the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) since 2003 and one of the most prominent Protestant leaders in Europe. In EKD, by the way, it’s evangelical in the German sense, meaning mainline Protestant, not evangelical as many Huckabee voters would understand it.
The Catholic weekly Rheinischer Merkur first mentioned Huber as a possible successor to President Horst Köhler, the former International Monetary Fund (IMF) head, if he chooses not to seek reelection. Huber once considered running for parliament as a Social Democrat, but didn’t. He would need support from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, which is closer to the Catholic Church and whose members tend to see Huber as a bit of a trendy lefty cleric.
“Protestant church sources say Bishop Wolfgang Huber is very interested in the job,” the weekly reported. “The EKD chairman could only survive the switch from church to state without damage to his image if he were elected by a broad consensus. But Huber is not especially popular with the Christian Democratic Union. But he does fulfil an unofficial qualification — except for Heinrich Lübke, all German presidents have been Protestants.”
Asked about the report, EKD spokesman Hans-Christof Vetter told the Protestant news service idea.de: “We aren’t saying anything about this at the moment. All I can say is that we will congratulate the president on his election, whether he is the old one or a new one.”