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Germany

Merkel Announces German Cabinet

After playing tug-of-war with her own party, Germany's chancellor-designate, Angela Merkel, named her cabinet members on Monday, ahead of coalition talks aimed at forming the new government.

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Team Merkel is all set

Germany's chancellor-to-be Angela Merkel named the conservative ministers in her cabinet Monday to complete the line-up of a coalition government which faces a formidable task to regenerate an ailing economy.

As expected, she appointed Wolfgang Schäuble (interior), Horst Seehofer (agriculture), Franz Josef Jung (defense), Annette Schavan (education) and Ursula Von Der Leyen (family). Edmund Stoiber had previously confirmed that he would become head of the economics ministry.

The new interior minister Wolfgang Schäuble is a familiar face. A confidant of conservative former chancellor Helmut Kohl, he is returning to the job he occupied from 1989 to 1991, to add some much-needed experience to the cabinet.

Appointing only a part of the cabinet was the price Merkel paid for evicting Gerhard Schröder from the chancellery after seven years in a power-sharing deal which hands his Social Democrats eight of the 14 cabinet posts, including the key finance and foreign ministries.

A Bavarian in Berlin

Merkel made her announcement shortly before the hard bargaining begins to hammer out a program for the new government, in the first acid test for an alliance of political enemies.

Bildgalerie Nach den Wahlen Union sucht Sündenbock Merkel Stoiber p178

CSU leader Edmund Stoiber and German chancellor-to-be Angela Merkel

Even before Merkel faces the difficulties posed by managing the Social Democrat ministers, she has clashed with Stoiber, who leads the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Merkel fought against Stoiber's wish to bring his trusted ally Horst Seehofer into the government because Seehofer has been a fierce critic of the conservatives' proposals to reform the health system.

CSU party leadership, however, voted unanimously for Seehofer's appointment as agriculture minister, sources close to the CSU said on Monday morning.

Clashes or camaraderie?

Merkel has dismissed fears that her administration will get bogged down in inter-party squabbles.

"I see a spirit of camaraderie in this new government," she told Monday's issue of Der Spiegel magazine.

Schröder und Müntefering

Schröder, right, will play no role in the government

Schröder will play no role in the new administration, yet many observers saw his influence in the line-up of Social Democrat (SPD) ministers named last week.

They included Schröder's former right-hand man, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, as foreign minister, and Peer Steinbrück, the former premier of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, as finance minister.

SPD party leader Franz Müntefering, another Schröder ally (photo), will be vice-chancellor.

It's not over till it's over

Symbolbild Große Koalition

Negotiating a government program may take as long as four weeks

The negotiations on the government's program could take four weeks and the cabinet may not be sworn in until mid-November.

There are signs Merkel has agreed to water down her more radical proposals to boost the economy, such as cutting employers' costs. With the Social Democrats watching her every move, she is expected to be forced into constant compromise.

The conservatives have identified four issues that must be agreed on in the negotiations -- a new budget, reviving the labor market and the welfare system and introducing tax reforms to promote economic growth.

The first so-called grand coalition government in Germany since the 1960s will take office with a mandate to cut an unemployment rate which is currently stuck above 11 percent. The economy is hardly growing and faces intense competition from low-cost eastern European neighbors.

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