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German Election Means New Energy Minister

Germany will have a new economy and energy minister once a new government is eventually sworn in following this weekend’s election, in which Angela Merkel will serve her fourth term as Chancellor although now with a reduced poll for her centre-right block.

Brigitte Zypries, who had held the economy and energy post since January 2017, when fellow Social Democrat (SPD) Sigmar Gabriel was promoted to become foreign minister, had declared in June 2016 she would not stand in Germany’s federal elections, held on September 24. 

Zypries’ own seat at Darmstadt, in central western Germany, was lost by her SPD successor to the CDU. 

Inroads by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AFD) party into the main Christian Democrat-Christian Social (CDU-CSU) vote and that of its erstwhile coalition SPD partner has prompted Merkel's CDU-CSU to seek an alliance with the resurgent pro-business liberal FDP and smaller Green Party.  

As the SPD has resigned itself to becoming the opposition, a 'Jamaica' coalition -- known because of the island flag's colours of black-yellow-green correspond to those of Merkel's CDU-CSU, liberal FDP and Greens respectively -- looks like Chancellor's only option for a governing majority coalition.

Merkel’s CDU-CSU block allied with the FDP during her second chancellorship from 2009 to 2013, and in 2011 announced that Germany would phase out nuclear power (a pro-Green policy) after Fukushima. During that time the economy/energy post was allocated to FDP politicians, along with the title of 'deputy chancellor'. But in 2013 the FDP won no parliamentary seats because it secured less than 5% of the national vote, and Merkel instead formed a grand coalition of her CDU-CSU block (which won 41.5% of the vote) with the SPD 25.7%.  

This time the FDP has rebounded to 10.7% of the vote, while the Greens have 8.9%, so together might secure the CDU-CSU a majority coalition, if negotiations with both are conclusive. The AFD though is now in third place with 12.6% after a particularly strong polling in former east Germany.

SPD deputy Dirk Wiese had been mentioned as a possible successor to Zypries, had the grand coalition returned his party as a coalition ally. Instead Wiese only just managed to be returned to parliament.


Mark Smedley