(Edited from AP, Berlin) Chancellor Angela Merkel failed to secure a swift victory for her candidate to be Germany’s president in an election Wednesday, but still appeared likely to get an embarrassingly lackluster win in a vote seen as a test after few bumpy months.

Merkel’s center-right government has a majority in the special parliamentary assembly that chooses the president. Her candidate, Christian Wulff, however, fell short of the absolute majority needed in the first two rounds of voting as coalition members opted for the opposition candidate.

(Edited from AP, Berlin) Chancellor Angela Merkel failed to secure a swift victory for her candidate to be Germany’s president in an election Wednesday, but still appeared likely to get an embarrassingly lackluster win in a vote seen as a test after few bumpy months.

Merkel’s center-right government has a majority in the special parliamentary assembly that chooses the president. Her candidate, Christian Wulff, however, fell short of the absolute majority needed in the first two rounds of voting as coalition members opted for the opposition candidate.

The governing coalition had hoped to show strength after a strife-riven start since it took office in October.

Wulff faced a strong challenge from the main opposition candidate, former East German human rights activist Joachim Gauck.

Still, Wulff – the 51-year-old governor of Lower Saxony state and a deputy leader of Merkel’s conservative party – appeared well-placed to win the simple majority needed in a third and final vote later in the day.

The 1,244 delegates – half federal lawmakers, the other half nominated by state parliaments – were voting for the largely ceremonial presidency by secret ballot in Berlin’s Reichstag parliament building.

Merkel’s center-right coalition has struggled since taking office in October. It has been hit by constant squabbling over policy, while the eurozone debt crisis forced it to push through an austerity drive and unpopular rescue packages for Germany’s European partners.

The contest for the presidency has added another layer to its troubles – fueling speculation in recent weeks that Merkel’s candidate could even lose, pushing her coalition to the brink of collapse.

The winner will replace Horst Koehler, nominated by Merkel in 2004, who abruptly stepped down May 31.

Merkel’s coalition has struggled to close ranks in the face of the challenge from Gauck, nominated by two opposition parties and widely viewed as more exciting than clean-cut career politician Wulff.

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