Attention in Berlin is focused on the allocation of ministerial positions in Germany’s new grand coalition. A few surprises are expected, with labor minister Ursula von der Leyen expected to get the defense portfolio.
Von de Leyen would replace her Christian Democrat colleague Thomas de Maizière (left in picture), who would return to the interior ministry.
The incumbent interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich had until a few months ago been seen as likely to retain that post.
However, Friedrich came under fire from within his own party, the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the CSU, for what was perceived as an overly lenient stance toward the US in the NSA spying scandal.
In addition, there was pressure on von der Leyen to vacate the labor post for a member of the trade union-affiliated Social Democrats (SPD). Andrea Nahles, the SPD’s general secretary is tipped as likely successor in the labor ministry.
Schäuble to remain
The CDU’S Wolfgang Schäuble – credited by many within the party for his approach to dealing with instability inside the eurozone – was widely expected to remain as finance minister.
Meanwhile, according to the Düsseldorf-based newspaper Rheinische Post and the news magazine Spiegel’s online edition, current CDU general secretary Hermann Gröhe was to become the new health minister. It was not apparent if the party’s Johanna Wanka would retain the role of education minister.
The CDU’s Bavarian sister party can hope for three ministries, with the current CSU general secretary Alexander Dobrindt to replace current transport minister Peter Ramsauer in his post.
Friedrich would be expected to move to one of the other two ministries the CSU is likely to hold, namely agriculture and development.
Return of a familiar face
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was the SPD’s unsuccessful challenger to Chancellor Angela Merkel when she was re-elected to a second term in 2009, is awaited back at the foreign ministry.
Steinmeier served in that post during Merkel’s first term of government from 2005-2009.
Media speculation indicated that SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel would head a “super-ministry” in charge of the economy and Germany’s ambitious energy transformation from nuclear power toward renewable sources, such as wind and solar power generation.
One of the SPD’s deputy chairpersons, Manuela Schwesig was tipped for the families brief. Current Saarland Economy Minister Heiko Maas is seen as a likely candidate to take the justice portfolio.
The final hurdle for the coalition deal to go ahead was cleared on Saturday when the results of a SPD membership ballot were announced.
Of the 370,000 SPD valid ballots returned, 76 percent voted to enter a coalition with Merkel. Almost 24 percent voted against the proposed coalition, said SPD treasurer Barbara Hendricks.
The returns accounted for 78 percent of the party’s total of 474,820 members nationwide.
rc/lw,ipj (AP, Reuters, dpa)