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Angela Merkel's new Cabinet takes shape

March 5, 2018

After Germany's Social Democrats finally gave in to the lure of another government coalition, Chancellor Angela Merkel can now start appointing her Cabinet. And she is already facing discontent from her own party.

German chancellor Angela Merkel CDU
Image: Reuters/H. Hanschke

At 10 a.m. on Monday morning, Chancellor Angela Merkel emerged for barely more than a minute to mark the end of months of political maneuvering and welcome the Social Democratic Party (SPD)back into the warm embrace of another centrist government. 

"After six months, the people have the right to a solid government," she said, employing her gift for understatement. 

Despite two years of upheaval following the refugee crisis, which resulted in the resurgence of far-right populism in the shape of the Alternative for Germany (AfD),Germany's notorious aversion to change was reflected in the clear vote in favor of a new grand coalition by the SPD members.

But Merkel had to pay a price to stay in the top job for four more years: she gave up the Finance Ministry - ruled with resolve by party colleague Wolfgang Schäuble since 2009 - to the Social Democrats. And on Monday it was revealed that her allies in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union (CSU), would get key roles in the new government - much to the annoyance of some in her own Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Read more - New German government: What's at stake for the EU?

Bavarian politician Horst Seehofer
The rise of the Bavarians: CSU leader Horst Seehofer will be the new Interior MinisterImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Balk

Chipping away at the CDU

Merkel might be aware that her allies needed some propping up - like the SPD, and indeed her own party, the CSU scored its worst-ever result last September. The CSU, which only fields candidates in its home state, took 38.8 percent of the Bavarian vote, and is now worried about losing its traditional absolute majority in the October state election.

As was previously known, CSU leader Horst Seehofer will take on the role of interior minister - a ministry that has been enhanced with the extra remits of construction andthe untranslatable "Heimat." On top of that, the DPA reported that the party's general secretary, Andreas Scheuer, will be Germany's new transport minister.

Meanwhile, other Bavarian figures assumed important positions in the federal government: Gerd Müller is to remain development minister, and Dorothee Bär is to become the new state minister for "digital affairs" - a new role in the chancellor's office that overlaps with the Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, also in CSU hands. The appointments are expected to be confirmed on March 14, when Merkel herself is due to be voted in by Bundestag members.

The fact that four major CSU politicians were accommodated in the new federal government underlined that the CSU, often considered the conservative wing of the CDU/CSU alliance, won concessions from Merkel in the long coalition negotiations that began the year - something which wasn't lost on members of her own party.

As a sop to them, Merkel has also been forced to hand a government role to a right-wing critic inside her own party - the young and ambitious Jens Spahn, a former pharmaceutical lobbyistwho is - fittingly - lined up for the Health Ministry, and has even been mooted as a potential future CDU leader.

The Cabinet comes together

The SPD, meanwhile, has said it will take a few more days before it names its ministers. Olaf Scholz, currently the mayor of Hamburg, looks set to be appointed finance minister and vice chancellor, while designated party leader Andrea Nahles will lead the Social Democrats' parliamentary party.

The biggest question mark remains over who, if anyone, will replace Sigmar Gabriel as foreign minister. The post was briefly the object of an unseemly spat between two SPD dinosaurs Gabriel and failed chancellor candidate Martin Schulz.

Now Gabriel's grumbling appears to have cost him favor in his party, and the job is expected to go either to current Justice Minister Heiko Maas or current Family Minister Katarina Barley.

Merkel's new cabinet - runners and riders (likely but yet to be confirmed):

Chancellor: Angela Merkel (CDU) - incumbent

Chief of Staff: Helge Braun (CDU) - replacing Peter Altmaier (CDU)

Finance Minister: Olaf Scholz (SPD) - replacing Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU)

Interior Minister: Horst Seehofer (CSU) - replacing Thomas de Maiziere (CDU)

Foreign Minister: Heiko Maas or Katarina Barley - replacing Sigmar Gabriel (all SPD)

Defense Minister: Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) - incumbent

Economy and Energy Minister: Peter Altmaier (CDU) - replacing Brigitte Zypries (SPD)

Justice Minister: Heiko Maas (SPD), incumbent - or Eva Högl (SPD)

Labor and Social Affairs Minister: Either Andrea Nahles, Katarina Barley, or Hubertus Heil (all SPD)

Environment Minister: Barbara Hendricks (SPD) - incumbent

Family Minister: Katarina Barley (SPD), incumbent - or Christina Kampmann (SPD)

Health Minister: Jens Spahn (CDU) - replacing Hermann Gröhe (CDU)

Education and Research Minister: Anja Karliczek (CDU) - replacing Johanna Wanka (CDU)

Development Minister: Gerd Müller (CSU) - incumbent

Transport and Digital Infrastructure Minister: Andreas Scheuer (CSU) - replacing Christian Schmidt (CSU)

Food and Agriculture Minister: Julia Klöckner (CDU) - replacing Christian Schmidt (CSU)

Benjamin Knight Kommentarbild PROVISORISCH
Ben Knight Ben Knight is a journalist in Berlin who mainly writes about German politics.@BenWernerKnight
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