A wide majority of German lawmakers has elected former East German pro-democracy activist Joachim Gauck as new president.

Parliament speaker Norbert Lammert said Sunday that Gauck, who enjoyed the backing of most major parties, received 991 of the 1,232 ballots cast.

The new head of state, a largely ceremonial post in Germany, was elected by a special parliamentary assembly, consisting mostly of lawmakers from Parliament and the state legislatures.

The 72—year—old Gauck is a former pastor who opposed East Germany’s then—communist regime and became head of a federal agency overseeing the files of the Communists’ ubiquitous domestic intelligence service after Germany’s reunification.

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