Jockeying for Finance Ministry heats up
The biggest sticking point in forming a new government may be in deciding who takes the reins at the Finance Ministry. All three parties in the new coalition are reportedly offering their own candidates for the high-profile job.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly put forward Hessian state premier Roland Koch from her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) as a replacement for the outgoing Social Democratic minister Peer Steinbrück according to the Sunday edition of the Bild newspaper, citing sources near the top of the CDU.
Meanwhile, Merkel’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), has put forward the name of current Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. The 37-year-old aristocrat was only promoted to that post in February and had been a CSU foreign and defense policy expert in parliament before then. But the youthful Guttenberg has become one of Germany's most popular politicians, second only to Merkel, despite his principled opposition to the government’s bailout of car maker Opel.
Last, the Free Democratic Party, whose 14.6 percent share of electoral vote on Sept. 27 made the centre-right coalition possible also has its eye on the Finance Ministry. Bloomberg News and others have reported that the party, whose main platform calls for tax cuts and rewriting the tax code, would like to see FDP finance expert Hermann Otto Solms installed in the post.
There’s also been a movement among columnists and opinion writers to suggest that FDP head Guido Westerwelle should take the finance post. Traditionally, the head of the junior party in German coalition governments assumes the role of Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister but with Westerwelle’s relatively skimpy foreign policy expertise, some have suggested he would be better suited to managing the country’s finances.
“If [Westerwelle] succeeds in solving some of the problems that handicap Germany’s economy, he would have served the republic better than he could have in his role as chief diplomat,” wrote political analyst Katinka Barysch from the Centre for European Reform think tank.
With coalition negotiations set to begin Monday and Merkel having announced a goal of forming a new government by November 9, the lobbying for the finance slot will be brief and intense. But given Germany’s impending record budget deficits, whoever assumes the post will likely spend their term in office under heavy pressure and stress.