Schaeuble to head German parliament, unblocking coalition talks
Germany took a first decisive step on Wednesday toward forming a new government when its veteran finance minister, conservative Wolfgang Schaeuble, agreed to become president of the parliament, clearing the way for another party to take his job.
Chancellor Angela Merkel will hope that Schaeuble, deeply respected in Germany for helping to steer the eurozone through its debt crisis, can stamp his authority on a fractious Bundestag lower house that will include two more parties after Sunday’s federal election.
Merkel must assemble Germany’s first three-way coalition since the 1950s after her conservatives lost support and a far-right party, the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), entered parliament for the first time in 50 years.
Andrea Nahles, the Social Democrats’ newly elected parliamentary leader, told reporters her party would hit conservatives “squarely in the jaw” after four years as junior partner in a Merkel-led “grand coalition.” Merkel’s most realistic coalition option now is a deal with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), returning to parliament after a four-year hiatus, and the Greens.
But the parties disagree on issues such as energy, Europe and migration, complicating the path to a “Jamaica” coalition – a reference to the parties’ colors: black, yellow and green, which are also those of the Jamaican flag.
Schaeuble, 75, who emerged as one of Europe’s most influential politicians during the eurozone crisis, will bring unprecedented weight to the role of Bundestag president, normally a lowprofile position. His willingness to quit as finance minister after eight years in the post makes it easier for the FDP to join a Merkel-led coalition. The FDP, who are as fiscally hawkish as Schaeuble, have said they want his old job.
“As an outstanding personality Wolfgang Schaeuble possesses a natural authority that is of particular importance in these times,” said FDP leader Christian Lindner, himself seen as a likely successor at the finance ministry.
Lindner’s deputy, Wolfgang Kubicki, another possible candidate for the post, told the RND newspaper chain that Schaeuble’s move showed Merkel’s openness to a “Jamaica” coalition.