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Merkel announces cabinet posts in grand coalition

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has unveiled the remaining ministers in her third cabinet. While her party has kept the ministries of defense and finance, its junior coalition partner will take labor and foreign affairs.

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Merkel announces ministers in grand coalition

Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian ally, the Christian Social Union (CSU), announced their ministerial positions,

confirming days of speculation as to who would help form the grand coalition government.

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin on Sunday evening, Chancellor Merkel made the highly-anticipated announcement. The chancellor expressed optimism at the Social Democrats' (SPD) resounding "yes" to entering into a grand coalition government again.

The

SPD's 76-percent vote in favor of the partnership with the CDU/CSU

was a good sign "that the coalition can meet its duties," she said.

CDU ministerial positions

The biggest surprise came with the announcement that Ursula von der Leyen would become Germany's first female defense minister. The politician from Lower Saxony had headed the ministry of family affairs and the labor ministry in Merkel's first and second terms, respectively.

As part of the reshuffle, current defense minister Thomas de Maiziere was returned to his previous ministerial position at the helm of the interior ministry.

Meanwhile, the environment minister Peter Altmaier is to become the head of the chancellery, taking over for Roland Pofalla. His ministry would also be taking on new oversight of surveillance affairs in the wake of the NSA scandal. Merkel said she would announce the deputy minister in charge of the new role at a later date.

Hermann Gröhe - the CDU's secretary general - was named health minister. His predecessor, Daniel Bahr, will not be returning to the post as his liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) was ousted in the September 22 elections when it failed to garner 5-percent of the vote needed to enter parliament.

Taking over for Gröhe as the party's secretary general is Peter Tauber, a young CDU politician.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and Education Minister Johanna Wanka will both remain in their current jobs, Merkel said.


CSU names three ministers

Just ahead of the chancellor's press conference, the head of the CSU and Bavaria's premier, Horst Seehofer, named three ministers from his party who will join the grand coalition cabinet.

Speaking from Munich on Sunday night, Seehofer said Hans-Peter Friedrich would head the ministry of agriculture, relinquishing his current post as minister of the interior.

Seehofer named his party's secretary general, Alexander Dobrindt, to the position of minister of transportation and digital infrastructure.

Bavarian politician Gerd Müller is to become the minister of development.

SPD names cabinet members

Earlier on Sunday, the Social Democrats, who will be Merkel's junior coalition partners, named six cabinet members.

SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel

named the party's general secretary, Andrea Nahles, to the post of labor minister.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier - the leader of the opposition in parliament - would become the new foreign minister, a post he held from 2005 until 2009 during the last Merkel-led grand coalition. Steinmeier is to take the position over from the FDP's Guido Westerwelle.

Germany's next federal minister for justice and customer rights will be Heiko Maas, a senior politician from Saarland, Germany's western state neighboring France and Luxembourg.

In addition to Nahles, the SPD named two other women to ministerial positions, making up half of their cabinet posts in the grand coalition. Party treasurer Barbara Hendricks is to head the environment ministry and SPD deputy chairwoman Manuela Schwesig is to take over the ministry for family affairs, senior citizens, women and youth.

Gabriel himself is to head a new 'super' ministry which combines economy and energy and will help oversee Germany's transition to renewable energy sources.

Cabinet inaugurations are to take place on Tuesday.

Merkel's CDU/CSU won 41.5 percent of the vote in the September 22 federal elections, but fell five seats short of an absolute majority. The center-left Social Democrats took only 25.7 percent of the vote.

kms/ccp (Reuters, dpa)

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