Merkel's rival gets crucial ministry

Social Democrats leader will oversee the country's transition from nuclear power

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 4:44am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 4:44am


Germany's new "grand coalition" government yesterday unveiled Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet for her third term, with a long-time rival to take its toughest job.

Sigmar Gabriel, the leader of Germany's Social Democrats, junior partners in Merkel's power-sharing government, told reporters he would become her vice-chancellor and head up what the media labelled a "super ministry" responsible for the economy and energy policy.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier will return as foreign minister, a job he held under Merkel during her first term when she also led a left-right "grand coalition".

The Social Democrats (SPD) kept a pledge to fill half of the cabinet seats allotted to them with women.

Left-wing firebrand Andrea Nahles, the SPD's current general secretary, is to become labour minister, sharing responsibility for rolling out Germany's first national minimum wage - a condition the SPD set for the alliance with Merkel.

Gabriel said another SPD deputy leader, Aydan Ozoguz, would become state minister for immigration, refugees and integration - the highest office ever held in Germany by a woman from the country's three-million strong Turkish community.

The "super ministry" Gabriel, a former environment minister, will lead is to manage Germany's transition away from nuclear power and toward greater use of renewables.

The brief stems from Merkel's abrupt decision in the wake of Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011 to shut down all of Germany's reactors by 2022.

The radical policy shift has seen energy costs rise for consumers and driven up greenhouse gas emissions as the country turns to coal for power.

Given the complexity of the task, many analysts saw the appointment as a poisoned chalice handed by Merkel to Gabriel, her likely challenger in 2017 should she stand for a fourth term.


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