Ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder calls for term limits, floats Angela Merkel successors in interview | News | DW | 11.07.2018
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Ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder calls for term limits, floats Angela Merkel successors in interview

The former German chancellor unveiled his top three picks to succeed Merkel. The interview is likely to unsettle his Social Democrats as one notable person didn't make Schröder's shortlist — the current head of the SPD.

After internal struggles within German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative alliance threatened to topple her government in recent weeks, analysts and politicians have started mulling over who could possibly succeed her.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder chimed in on the debate in an interview with German news magazine stern on Wednesday, giving his two cents on who he'd like to see in the chancellery after Merkel.

Within Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), Schröder said North Rhine-Westphalia state premier Armin Laschet was best suited to succeed her as chancellor.

"His political concept isn't so bad," Schröder told stern. "He has close ties to the economy, but he also emphasizes societal issues." He added that Laschet would pose a challenge to the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and should be taken seriously. Laschet and the CDU claimed control of Germany's most populous state in May 2017, a major win against the SPD in the immediate build-up to the general election.

SPD's Nahles not mentioned

Within his own SPD, Schröder said there are two other potential chancellor candidates who also have economic expertise — Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and Lower Saxony state premier Stephan Weil — who hails from the same state that made Schröder.

His SPD selection is likely to rock the boat within his party, as Schröder didn't mention the current head of the SPD, Andrea Nahles, as a contender for chancellor.

Traditionally, the chancellor candidate spot is given to the head of a political party — a fact Schröder noted in the interview, without ever mentioning Nahles by name. Unlike the centrist Schröder, former Labor Minister Nahles is considered a left-leaning SPD politician, and also one whose focus has been rather domestic in the past.

Term limits and dialogue with Russia

Schröder accused Merkel of mishandling the crisis over asylum policy with Interior Minister and head of the Christian Social Union (CSU) Horst Seehofer. Seehofer had threatened to resign over the dispute, but eventually remained in his post following compromises with the CDU and SPD.

When facing an unsolvable conflict, Schröder said a chancellor has two options: "Either they force their opponent into isolation by combining a vote of confidence with a factual issue, or they dismiss the minister."

Schröder took one more dig at Merkel, who served as chancellor for nearly 13 years, calling for chancellor terms to be capped.

"Two terms, eight years — I think that wouldn't be too bad," Schröder said.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin (picture-alliance/AP/SPUTNIK KREMLIN/A. Druzhinin)

Schröder criticized some members of his party for not being more open to talks with Russia — Schröder has also been criticized for his close ties to the Kremlin

Schröder served as chancellor for seven years from 1998 to 2005. He was succeeded by Merkel in 2005 after his SPD lost an early election. Schröder effectively triggered this election, by calling a vote of confidence and then urging his own party not to back his government.

Schröder also criticized current Foreign Minister and SPD politician Heiko Maas for not being as open as his predecessors to talking with Russia.

The former chancellor has been criticized for his close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as for taking a seat on the board Rosneft, the state-owned Russian energy giant. He's also currently the chairman of the board for the Russian-German gas pipeline project Nord Stream.

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