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Former Rights Activist Elected German President

Joachim Gauck holds flowers after being elected president at Germany's Federal Assembly in Berlin, March 18, 2012.

German lawmakers have elected former East German rights activist Joachim Gauck as the country's new president.

Parliament speaker Norbert Lambert said the 72-year-old Gauck received 991 votes out of 1,232 ballots cast during a special assembly of national and regional lawmakers on Sunday.

His rival, 73-year-old former Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld, received 126 votes.

Gauck is a former pastor who was a vocal opponent of East Germany's communist regime. He later went on to head a federal agency that oversaw the files of the Communist dreaded police force, the Stasi.

His appointment to the largely ceremonial position follows the abrupt resignation of his predecessor Christian Wulff over a corruption scandal.

Gauck, who is not affiliated with any political party, received the backing of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A recent opinion poll shows that he has the trust of 80 percent of Germany's citizens.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.