Germany′s Not So New Interior Minister | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 18.10.2005
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Germany's Not So New Interior Minister

Wolfgang Schäuble, has been tapped to be Germany's new interior minister, replacing Otto Schily. A controversial figure, Schäuble returns to the position which he held under former Chancellor Helmut Kohl.


Schäuble, sitting right, will bring experience to Merkel's new cabinet

Wolfgang Schäuble is considered by many to be the most experienced member of chancellor-designate Angela Merkel's new coalition government. Schäuble, 63, made his career in the ample shadow of former chancellor Kohl when he was considered the chancellor's closest confidant.

Merkel's conservatives named the respected CDU veteran to head the Interior Ministry, a position he also held from 1989-1991.

Schäubles rise to the top

Wolfgang Schäuble is a Protestant who was born in Freiburg in 1942. A trained lawyer by profession, he has served as an elected official for over 35 years.

Wolfgang Schäuble

Schäuble survived an assasination attempt by a mentally ill man in 1990.

Confined to a wheelchair since an assassination attempt in 1990 that left him paralyzed him from the waist down, Schäuble is considered one of the architects of German reunification. He served as Interior Minister in the Kohl government and was chief whip of the CDU, building a reputation as a cross-party deal-maker in Germany's complex system of federal government.

During the Kohl years he came to be regarded as the chancellor's political confidante and in return for his loyalty was the only candidate allowed to rise to a position of influence within the party. When Mr Kohl finally stepped down, following the CDU's 1998 election defeat Mr Schäuble, inherited the leadership of the CDU.

Finance scandal damages CDU

Just over a year after being voted out of office, Helmut Kohl admitted in a TV interview that the CDU had received approximately two million deutsche marks in secret donations between 1993 and 1998. These donations, which were not published in the party's annual finance reports, were then funnelled back into the coffers of regional and local CDU party branches, to cover campaign costs.

CDU/CSU-Fraktionschef Wolfgang Schäuble (r) gestikuliert während seiner Rede am Dienstag (19.05.1998) vor dem CDU-Bundesparteitag in Bremen, links Bundeskanzler Helmut Koh Schaeuble

Schäuble was considered by many to be Helmut Kohls right hand man

When the allegations first emerged in 1999, Schäuble promised quick party-wide investigations and acted carefully to minimize political damage to his predecessor and one-time mentor.

However by the beginning of 2000 it was clear that the CDU's funding scandal engulf him as well. Schäuble admitted on January 10, 2000, that he had received a cash donation of 100,000 DM from Karlheinz Schreiber, a Bavarian businessman and arms dealer. Schäuble declared that this donation had not been published in the party's official records. He blamed Brigitte Baumeister , the former party treasurer, for this "mistake" and denies any personal wrong-doing.

Reluctant bedfellows?

Chancellor-designate Merkel took over the leadership of the CDU from Schäuble in 2000. But despite severe criticism from both within and outside of his party Schäuble eventually salvaged his reputation and became one of Germany's most respected politicians.

He suffered a setback in 2004 when Merkel refused to back him for the role of federal president, preferring the CDU's former head of the International Monetary Fund, Horst Köhler, for the job.

Bildergalerie Angela Merkel Bild14

Schäuble congratulates Angela Merkel in 1998 after she was elected as CDU general secretary

Relations between Merkel and Schäuble have improved over the years but he is not regarded as a close ally. Still, many observers say Merkel is turning to him now because she knows his political know-how will be essential if a potentially fractious government is to work.

Merkel has a history of sidelining party rivals and that has left her with few experienced conservative allies for top posts. Her party's unexpectedly poor result in a Sept. 18 election likewise curbed her ability to dictate who will be in her team.

As for his role as the country's top security official, Schäuble is likely to take just as tough a line on law and order as his Social Democrat predecessor Otto Schily.

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