German media are now reporting that the SPD has agreed to let the largest parliamentary faction put forward the candidate for Chancellor. For three weeks, the Social Democrats had been arguing that as the largest party represented in the Bundestag, they had the right to name the candidate. (Germany’s Christian Democrats come from two parties, one from Bavaria and one from everywhere else, but they work together, mostly, as a single parliamentary faction.)
The SPD has given way on this point, clearing the path for Angela Merkel to become Germany’s first female Chancellor.
In return, the SPD will get eight of fourteen ministires, including finance and foreign affairs. The head of the CSU, who lost to Schroeder in 2002, will go to Berlin as minister for the economy. Since the SPD will head the ministry of finance, which is responsible for the budget, this will ensure that the traditional trench warfare between these two ministries will continue unabated.
None of the reports say anything about what Chancellor Schroeder will be doing next. The political folks I’ve talked with can’t imagine him being #2 behind Merkel, even as foreign minister, but they also have a hard time picturing him just walking away.
We’ll know much more at 2:30 this afternoon, when both parties have press conferences scheduled.
PS: The trial balloon for the weekend was the introduction of tolls on the Autobahn, roughly EUR 100 per year. Between that and a VAT hike, the grand coalition might bring Germany the worst of both worlds.