Germany: Merkel's new cabinet nears completion

Germany’s conservatives are moving toward completing the lineup of Chancellor-designate Angela Merkel’s cabinet, with a key ally preparing to nominate his final choice for the new government.

Germany’s conservatives are moving toward completing the lineup of Chancellor-designate Angela Merkel’s cabinet, with a key ally preparing to nominate his final choice for the new government.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its Bavaria-only sister party, the Christian Social Union,are to get six ministries under a preliminary power-sharing deal reached last week with the centre-left Social Democrats.

The CSU is to get two of the six ministries. Party leader Edmund Stoiber has said he will become economy minister, but had left open who would take the other post.

Merkel wants to announce the conservatives’ nominations before formal coalition talks open this afternoon.

Uncertainty over Stoiber’s decision had appeared to hold up Merkel’s choices for other portfolios.

The conservatives will hold the interior, defence, education, economy, family and agriculture ministries.

Senior conservative officials said on condition of anonymity that Stoiber was leaning toward proposing Horst Seehofer as agriculture minister. Seehofer was health minister under former Chancellor Helmut Kohl and opposes radical economic reform.

“Everything is decided now,” Christian Wulff, the CDU governor of Lower Saxony, asserted on n-tv television.

He refused to give any names, but said the conservatives would present “experienced and new faces, a good mixture.”

Franz Josef Jung, an aide to Hesse governor Roland Koch, a senior CDU figure, has been widely tipped for the defence minister’s job. A CSU lawmaker, Michael Glos, had said he would be prepared to take that post.

Wolfgang Schaeuble, who served as interior minister under Kohl, has emerged in German media as a strong favourite to retake the ministry and become the country’s top security official.

Seehofer, an influential figure on the conservatives’ left wing, helped negotiate a 2003 deal with outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s centre-left government to trim health care costs.

He later angered many conservatives, however, by loudly opposing a Merkel proposal for a thorough overhaul of the state health insurance system.

Schroeder’s Social Democrats last week named their choices for their eight ministers in the new government.

They include Schroeder’s chief of staff, Frank Walter Steinmeier, as foreign minister, and Peer Steinbrueck, a widely respected former state governor, as finance minister.

The conservatives will also have eight Cabinet seats, with Merkel and her chief of staff in addition to their

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