The future Chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz, announced on Monday that an epidemiologist who has been a prominent voice of prudence in the coronavirus pandemic will be the new Minister of Health, within a team that includes the first woman in the highest-ranking security position in the country.
Scholz presented his party’s governing candidates, the center-left Social Democrats, hours before potential partners in the new government, the Greens, announced whether their militants had approved the new three-way coalition in a vote.
That would pave the way for parliament to elect Scholz on Wednesday, after the Social Democratic and Liberal Democratic conventions endorsed the deal over the weekend. His appointment would end the 16-year tenure of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The appointment that aroused the most expectation was that of the Minister of Health, as Germany is having problems fighting its highest rate of coronavirus infections since the pandemic began. Scholz chose Karl Lauterbach, an epidemiologist and communicative legislator who has no government experience but has been one of the most prominent voices in Germany calling for prudence and strict measures against COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
“The pandemic is far from over”Scholz said, claiming that “most of the people in this country certainly wanted the next health minister to be a specialist who can do it well, and to be named Karl Lauterbach.”
Federal and state leaders announced new restrictions last week targeting primarily the unvaccinated. In a more long-term measure, the parliament will consider imposing general vaccination.
When asked about the prospect of Christmas, Lauterbach said that “An important goal should be to reduce the number of cases until we can recommend travel without endangering people.”
When he announced his electives for Defense and Interior, Scholz said that “security will be in the hands of strong women in this government.”
Nancy Faeser, a lawyer who leads the party’s branch in the central state of Hesse, was an unexpected choice as Germany’s prime minister of the interior, a position that includes overseeing the police forces and the internal intelligence agency. Faeser said one of his priorities would be to combat far-right extremism, which he described as “the greatest threat” to the country.
Outgoing Justice Minister Christina Lambrecht will become the new Defense Minister.
Klara Geywitz, a veteran East German Social Democrat who was Scholz’s partner in a failed attempt to lead the party in 2019, will head the newly created Ministry of Construction. Outgoing Minister for the Environment Svenja Schulze will become Minister for International Development. The Minister of Employment, Hubertus Heil, will remain in the post.
Scholz’s chief of staff will be Wolfgang Schmidt, a former confidant of the next president and who was his deputy finance minister in the outgoing government.
The Greens and Liberal Democrats have already appointed their ministers. Scholz’s vice chancellor will be Robert Habeck, one of the Greens’ co-leaders. He will head a Ministry of Economy and Climate, a new combination. The Greens’ other co-leader, Annalena Berbock, will become Germany’s Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs after leading her party’s first campaign for chancellorship in September elections.
The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Christian Lindner, will become finance minister and number 3 in the new government.
Scholz had promised a cabinet with gender parity, and so it is, if the chancellor is not counted. Elections within her party, she said, reflect the fact that women should “have half the power.”
(with information from AP)
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