Angela Merkel offers critic Jens Spahn cabinet postHeat Profit
Angela Merkel confirmed that she would bring Jens Spahn, one of her fiercest rivals, into the next cabinet in a move that could give the banner carrier of the conservative wing of the Christian Democratic Union a platform to fight for her succession.
The German chancellor unveiled her list of CDU ministers for the next government after a meeting of party leaders on Sunday.
As with previous high-level appointments, Ms Merkel’s decision will be scrutinised above all for signs of who is best placed to take over as party leader and, potentially, as chancellor once she retires.
Ms Merkel is hoping to see through a fourth term as chancellor that would extend her tenure at the top of Europe’s largest economy to 16 years.
Her immediate fate, however, is in the hands of the 460,000 members of the Social Democratic party, who have until the end of the week to vote in an internal referendum.
SPD leaders signed off this month on a draft coalition deal that still needs the backing of rank-and-file members. The result of the vote is due next Sunday.
Mr Spahn, 37, has served until now as deputy finance minister. In a party famed for its tight discipline and cohesion, he has carved out a role as an informal spokesman for the CDU right, and at times as a frank critic of Ms Merkel’s centrist course.
His planned elevation to the post of health minister is likely to be seen as a signal to the CDU’s disgruntled conservative wing that Ms Merkel is listening to its concerns.
Speaking on Sunday evening, Ms Merkel praised Mr Spahn as “very qualified”, and the health portfolio as a job “of the highest priority”. She added: “With this team we can tackle the challenges of the future.”
The appointment could set up an intriguing succession duel between Mr Spahn and the woman who many believe is the chancellor’s own preferred candidate: Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is slated to become the new CDU secretary-general. Like Ms Merkel, the former prime minister of the federal state of Saarland is seen as a moderate conservative.
Other important appointments on Ms Merkel’s list include Peter Altmaier as minister for the economy and Ursula von der Leyen, who will stay on as defence minister.
Mr Altmaier, a longstanding Merkel loyalist, currently serves in the twin role as head of the chancellery and acting finance minister.
His job as the top chancellery official will be taken by Helge Braun, a senior chancellery aide who played a crucial role in co-ordinating Germany’s response to the 2015 refugee crisis. Mr Braun worked as a doctor and hospital anaesthetist before joining frontline politics.
The presentation of the cabinet list came ahead of a keenly awaited CDU conference in Berlin on Monday that will vote on the draft coalition agreement with the SPD and confirm Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer in her new role.
The coalition deal met a lukewarm reception from CDU members and officials amid complaints that Ms Merkel had been overly generous to the junior coalition partner.
Under the terms of the deal, the SPD will receive three top ministries despite winning just 20.5 per cent of the vote at the latest general election, compared with 33 per cent for the CDU and its Bavarian sister party.
If the SPD base backs the formation of a new government, the party will nominate the finance minister, foreign minister and labour minister — a larger haul of senior cabinet posts than it took in the previous grand coalition.