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Angela Merkel's CDU clearing the way for coalition?: Takeaways from Day 3

Merkel's party appears to have taken its first step toward wooing the FDP into Germany's next government. The SPD picks a Bundestag boss, the AfD entertains and alarms, and more from the third day of election fallout.

CDU stalwart to shift from key ministry

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble will be the Bundestag's likely new president, German media reported on Wednesday, clearing the path for Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) to offer his job to a member of a potential coalition partner.

The laissez-faire Free Democrats (FDP), who were drummed out of the parliament and government four years ago, are said to covet the post now that they're on their way back.

Wolfgang Schäuble (Getty Images/AFP/J. Thys)

Schäuble is almost everyone's favorite to preside over parliament

"As an outstanding personality, Wolfgang Schäuble possesses a natural authority that is of particular importance in these times," said FDP leader Christian Lindner, a potential successor to lead the Finance Ministry.

Following Sunday's elections, officials from the CDU, Bavaria's allied Christian Social Union (CSU), FDP and Greens — parties involved in four-way talks to form a government — had all independently mentioned that the controversial finance minister might be a good fit to lead the parliament. The position will require a highly experienced politician to deal with a parliament troubled by the AfD entering its ranks.

Even the upstart far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) didn't seem to oppose the nomination once it began looking more official. "I have no criticism, but also no agreement to offer," AfD co-chief Alexander Gauland said Wednesday in Berlin. 

SPD chooses chief to rally opposition

In addition to the AfD, which formed in 2013 and which will enter the Bundestag after winning the votes of 12.6 percent of Germany's electorate, Schäuble will have to contend with the Social Democrats (SPD).

Andrea Nahles

Nahles is the first woman to lead the SPD's Bundestag deputies

The party will likely lead the opposition to whatever coalition Merkel cobbles together and, to that end, its members have nominated Labor and Social Affairs Minister Andrea Nahles as their parliamentary leader.

"We're not going into the opposition to remain in the opposition," the 47-year-old Nahles said on Wednesday after winning the support of 90 percent of her SPD colleagues. "To me, this is the beginning of a renewal process," she added.

The SPD reached a postwar low in support on Sunday, winning just 20.5 percent of the vote.

Reprieve for Seehofer

CSU leader Horst Seehofer has spent three days licking his own wounds after the AfD nicked a substantial number of voters from his party — for decades the Bundestag's furthest-right — on its home turf in Bavaria. After the CSU also reached a postwar low, with just 38.8 percent support in the conservative, Catholic-dominated state, many members have called for the chief to be ousted. However, the CSU seems to have settled on a probationary period lasting until the party's conference in November before members decide whether to see off Seehofer.

Horst Seehofer in Berlin

Seehofer has seen better times, but he appears to be safe for now

"Nobody in the parliamentary party was of the opinion that we should be conducting personnel debates right now," the CSU's Bundestag leader, Thomas Kreuzer, said after party members held a closed-door meeting on Wednesday.

An erstwhile ally of Merkel's, Seehofer has also proved a consistent thorn in the chancellor's side on topics such as migration, which is shaping up to be a point of contention in coalition talks, with the Greens favoring a more humanitarian approach and the FDP advocating more restrictive policies.

AfD in disarray?

After co-founder Frauke Petry made a dramatic exit from the stage — and the party — at Monday's press conference to discuss the far-right parliamentary party's unprecedented election achievements, political observers have wondered what exactly is up with the AfD. One possibility is that Petry and her husband, fellow defector Marcus Pretzell, might try to form a rival group after relatively belatedly coming around to the notion that the AfD might be in their word "radicalized." German media have even reported finding a website registered in Petry's name: dieblauen.de, a potential reference to the blue hue of the AfD.

Alexander Gauland, Alice Weidel and Frauke Petry in Berlin

Petry (far-right) felt overshadowed by Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel

Whichever Bundestag deputies choose to remain in the AfD rather than jumping ship for the apparently as-yet-unnamed group led by Petry and Pretzell will face an uphill battle leading the parliament's culture committee. Several German artists and politicians have signed an open letter asking that the far-right AfD not be allowed to inject its "nationalist poison" into matters of aesthetics. 

Despite a busy day in German politics, parties have not even begun to make their most major maneuvers in earnest yet: There is a contested state election in Lower Saxony scheduled for October 15, and nobody wants a national-level misstep to ruin things for their regional division.

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