Now that Germany has a new leader, there is much speculation about the future of outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. While he has confirmed he is stepping down, Schröder's plans for his future remain private.
Schröder will have both political and private options to choose from
Outgoing German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder on Tuesday confirmed that he would not play a role in the country's next coalition government set to be headed by conservative leader Angela Merkel.
Referring to coming negotiations between his Social Democrats party (SPD) and Merkel's Christian Democrats on forming a new left-right coalition government, Schröder, who was making a speech in Berlin, said he wanted to "take part (in the talks) so they go well. That's how how we interpret our mission, even if we no longer belong to the new government."
In the immediate future, Schröder remains the head of government and will visit Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday before a working dinner with French President Jacques Chirac on Friday.
Some reports have said that he will be urged to stay within his Social Democrats to guide them through government in a coalition led by his conservative archrival Angela Merkel. Others predicted a future outside politics, including a report that he had been approached about working for Russian energy giant Gazprom.
Merkel to lead grand-coalition
Angela Merkel, future chancellor of Germany first "grand coaltion" government since the 1960's.
As Merkel announced on Monday that she had won the right to lead a coalition of her Christian Democrats and Schröder's Social Democrats, the chancellor was nowhere to be seen. The message seemed to be that the battle to serve a third term was lost and, for once, the man known as the "media chancellor" could not steal her moment. His only appearance was as the lone figure on the chancellery's upper floors.
It was left to Franz Müntefering, the Social Democrats' party chief, to announce at a separate press conference that Schröder would remain to help the party through the coalition negotiations. Müntefering insisted that no decision had been made on who should become vice-chancellor, a role the Social Democrats will fill in the division of cabinet jobs that is weighted heavily in their favor. It appears unlikely Schröder will accept the job.
What comes next for Gerhard?
He reportedly told Merkel in their late-night crunch talks on Sunday that staying in the government was "not in my career plans." Social Democrat sources have told the press that Schröder had told his allies that he would not serve "under this woman." He may however come under pressure to stay within the Social Democrats in some role, and he certainly retains a seat in the Bundestag lower house of parliament.
Schröder will face calls from leadership sages on both the right and left. "In this situation the party cannot do without him, they it need him," said the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Schröder met with Putin in his hometown of St. Petersburg Friday, Oct. 7th, as the German leader took a break from tough political coalition negotiations.
In the immediate future, Schröder will remain chancellor and has plans to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday before a working dinner with French President Jacques Chirac on Friday. Both meetings are designed to plan the EU summit at Hampton Court Palace, near London, on October 27 - 28, at which Schröder will represent Germany.
What happens after that is unclear. At 61, Schröder has the energy, charisma and contacts to make big money in the private sector. His fourth wife, Doris Schröder-Köpf, 20 years his junior, has expressed a desire to live in New York, although Schröder, a trained lawyer, would have to improve his English to work in the United States.
The top-selling German newspaper Bild, quoting Russian media, said he had discussed working for Gazprom when he attended the birthday celebrations of close ally Russian President Vladimir Putin over the weekend. But on that rumor, as with all the others, there has only been silence from Schröder.