SPD disarray

German foreign minister post up for grabs

You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want. Source: Reuters

Since Martin Schulz’s startling fall from grace, everyone is wondering who will take up one of the most important offices in government. After seemingly neverending negotiations, Chancellor Angela Merkel hammered out a coalition agreement with her conservative allies and the Social Democrats (SPD), including the all-important allocation of cabinet posts.

That’s not to say that the deal is cut and dried – the 464,000 SPD members could still reject the agreement in a vote whose results will be announced on March 4. In order to get the SPD on board with a grand coalition revival, Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats forfeited a key cabinet position – the foreign minister. Now, a Social Democrat is set to take up the powerful post.

But who is it going to be? SPD head Martin Schulz had nabbed the title for himself and gave up party leadership only to bow out altogether amid intense pressure from disgruntled members of his own party. This has powered up the rumor mill about who will replace the acting foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel.

Sigmar Gabriel (58) 

The incumbent is one of the most popular SPD politicians in the country. But within his own party, the former SPD leader has lost some of his shine. He angered party members by lashing out at Mr. Schulz last week, saying the erstwhile chancellor candidate had broken promises. It’s unlikely that Mr. Gabriel will keep the job.

Could she become Germany's next foreign minister?
Could she become Germany's next top diplomat? Source: dpa

Katarina Barley (49) 

She could become Germany’s first female foreign minister. Ms. Barley, whose father is British, is the current family minister and has been acting minister of labor and social affairs since the general election last September. The former secretary general of the SPD is a lawyer by profession.

Niels Annen (44) 

Mr. Annen has been the foreign affairs spokesman for the parliamentary group since 2014. He was chairman of the SPD’s youth wing (known as Jusos) for three years. The Hamburg native advocates a tougher stance towards Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and a Germany more independent from the US. By appointing the 44-year-old, the SPD would heed calls to promote younger politicians.

Michael Roth (47)

As Germany’s minister for European affairs and deputy foreign minister, he would bring diplomatic experience to the job. Mr. Roth is the representative for German-French cooperation. He has also been involved in political matters regarding Brexit, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, bilateral relations with the US and arms control.

Heiko Maas (51)

Another possible candidate is the country’s current justice minister. He has gained a high public profile for his role in introducing a strict new law tackling online hate speech.

Thomas Oppermann (63) 

Mr. Oppermann is a former leader of the SPD group in the Bundestag. He became vice president of the parliament after last year’s general election. He was the minister of education in Lower Saxony from 2013 to 2017. He is relatively unknown outside Germany.

Stephanie Ott is a writer and editor for Handelsblatt Global based in New York. To contact the author: s.ott@extern.handelsblatt.com.

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