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Germany

Merkel Fine-Tunes Cabinet Selection

Germany's incoming chancellor Angela Merkel will name her conservative cabinet ministers Monday to put the finishing touches to a coalition government which will take the country into an uncertain political future.

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Will Merkel reward members of her election team with cabinet posts?

Merkel won her fight to oust the incumbent Chancellor Gerhard Schröder at the price of a power-sharing deal which gives his Social Democrats eight of the 14 cabinet posts, among them the powerful portfolios of finance and the foreign ministry.

On Monday, the first woman chancellor in the country's history will announce who will fill the six cabinet posts her conservative Christian Union receives under the pact -- economy, interior, defense, agriculture, education and family, and the parliamentary speaker's chair.

Only economy, which will go Edmund Stoiber, the leader of the southern state of Bavaria, has been confirmed.

As soon as the names are announced, formal negotiations will begin to establish the program of the new government. The cabinet may not be sworn in until mid-November.

Merkel has dismissed fears that her administration will be unable to put aside inter-party divisions and get on with the job of injecting new life into Germany's stagnating economy.

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

Chancellor-designate puts her foot down

Müntefering zu Präsidiumssitzung

Müntefering is already sure of his place in the government

Merkel also sought to calm fears expressed by Stoiber and the future vice-chancellor and Social Democratic leader Franz Müntefering (photo) that she would lack the power guaranteed chancellors by Germany's Basic Law to impose her will on policy decisions. "Government discipline applies to all from the moment the government is formed," she said.

Schröder will play no role in the new government, yet many observers saw his hand in the line-up of Social Democrat ministers named on Thursday.

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

Heated exchanges mark conservative discussions

In contrast to the swift announcement by the Social Democrats, arguments about who should fill the conservatives' roles were continuing at the weekend, according to press reports.

The defense minister's job has been rumored to be going to Franz Josef Jung, a leading member of the Christian Democrat government in the central region of Hesse, which includes Germany's financial hub of Frankfurt.

Bildgalerie Minister Michael Glos Wirtschaft

Glos may take over for current Defense Minister Peter Struck

However, Merkel is leaning towards Michael Glos (photo), the head of the parliamentary party of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, the Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday.

Glos said any decision on the CSU's share of the cabinet posts had to be taken by the party's leader, Stoiber, but he told Bild he "was prepared to fill" the job.

There is less debate over the interior ministry, where Wolfgang Schäuble, a confidant of conservative former chancellor Helmut Kohl and who previously held the job from 1989 to 1991, will add some much-needed experience to the line-up.

Merkel may look to past to plot the future

Bildergalerie Gerhard Schröder 13

Germany has changed dramatically since the last grand coalition

The so-called grand coalition government uniting right and left is not unchartered territory in Germany, as it was last tried in the late 1960s when the Social Democrats under Willy Brandt became junior partners in government for the first time since World War II.

Merkel and her ministers will take office in starkly different surroundings, with unemployment of more than 11 percent sapping economic growth and intense competition from low-cost eastern European neighbors threatening job creation.

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

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