Sigmar Gabriel is one of the most popular politicians in Germany. But on Thursday, the acting foreign minister announced that he will not be a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s new government.
The Social Democrat was not offered another term amid tense relations with Andrea Nahles, who is expected to become the new party leader in April. The 58-year-old said in a written statement that Ms. Nahles and Olaf Scholz, the acting chairman and incoming finance minister, told him he would no longer have a cabinet post.
Mr. Gabriel’s successor was announced on Friday, along with the choices for several other cabinet posts won by the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in coalition talks.
Heiko Maas served as justice minister in the last grand coalition. Nonetheless the move to the Foreign Office would be a big jump on the career ladder for the 51-year-old. Since having joined the cabinet in 2013, Mr. Maas introduced several laws, including measures against hate speech online, a women’s quota, rent control, and anti-terrorism legislation. But critics accuse him of taking action just for the sake of doing so and of self-promotion.
However, Mr. Gabriel said Mr. Maas would be an excellent successor. He would leave the Foreign Office reassured, “if it is true that [Mr. Maas] will be the new foreign minister.” But the SPD leadership’s decision to not nominate Mr. Gabriel as Germany’s top diplomat could lead to unrest in the party, warned the political scientist Lothar Probst. “Mr. Gabriel still has many supporters in his party and the country, despite his unpredictability,” Mr. Probst told Handelsblatt. “It is possible that even more people will turn away from the party.”
A long list of challenges awaits Mr. Maas. US president Donald Trumps formally announced steep tariffs on steel and aluminum on Thursday, the UK is preparing its exit from the European Union, Russia is boasting about nuclear weapons, China is edging further away from democracy and there is still no solution in sight to the Syrian war.
Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats and their Bavarian ally, the Christian Social Union, have already announced their cabinet choices. Nearly six months after the elections, the next German government is gradually taking shape.
Dietmar Neuerer and Martin Greive cover politics for Handelsblatt out of Berlin. Stephanie Ott in New York City adapted this story to English for Handelsblatt Global. To contact the authors: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.