Merkel to appoint key party critic to cabinet: reports


BERLIN, Feb 25, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel has decided to give a cabinet role to an outspoken critic within her conservative party, as she looks to quell surging discontent in the right wing of the group, local media reported.

Merkel is tipped to name 37-year-old Jens Spahn as health minister in her new cabinet Sunday, according to reports in daily newspapers Bild and Suddeutsche Zeitung, as well as German news agency DPA.

The German leader has been stung by criticism from within the ranks of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party after a tricky September election left her struggling to secure a continued “grand coalition” that would enable her to launch a fourth term governing Europe’s biggest economy.

Spahn has been at the forefront of the backlash, slamming Merkel’s centrist policies, particularly on immigration, and advocating a sharp conservative shift, as the country’s major parties face pressure from the far-right AfD party which has railed against a mass influx of refugees that peaked in 2015.

The potential inclusion of Spahn in her cabinet line-up could help to defuse the internal rebellion ahead of a CDU congress set for Monday.

Merkel’s conservatives have had to relinquish key cabinet positions — including Finance and Foreign Affairs — to convince the Social Democrats (SPD) to again govern in coalition.

The SPD still needs to approve the arrangement, with the results of a crunch membership ballot due to be announced on March 4.

If its members vote “no” in the postal and online ballot, Germany faces more political paralysis and likely snap elections that would threaten an end to Merkel’s 12 years in power.

The CDU is set to vote on the deal at its meeting on Monday, but with the expected move to assuage her critics, approval is thought likely to be a formality.