, BERLIN, June 3 – German Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen, a popular mother of seven from Chancellor Angela Merkel\’s conservatives, has emerged as favourite to become the new president, media reported Thursday.
Germany has until June 30 to find a new head of state, whose job is largely ceremonial but who acts as a kind of national moral arbiter, to replace Horst Koehler, who resigned abruptly on Monday.
Von der Leyen, 51, is widely reported to be the top choice among members of Merkel\’s ruling coalition, which will hold a majority in a special assembly made up of MPs and public figures that will elect the new president.
Other possible candidates include Norbert Lammert, speaker of the lower house of parliament, Christian Wulff, premier of the state of Lower Saxony and Wolfgang Schaeuble, finance minister, newspapers said.
The popular Von der Leyen, a trained doctor who became popular as family minister in Merkel\’s first term, would not only be Germany\’s youngest-ever president, she would also be the first female to hold the job.
Koehler\’s resignation, which was the latest in a string of setbacks to Merkel\’s second term, came after he appeared to suggest that Germany\’s overseas military operations were in part commercially motivated.
More concrete indications were expected to emerge following a meeting late on Thursday between Merkel and state premiers from her conservative Christian Democrat (CDU/CSU) bloc.