German finance chief set to head Parliament

Mr Wolfgang Schaeuble with Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Bundestag on Sept 6. His 45 years in the Bundestag make him Germany's longest-serving lawmaker.
Mr Wolfgang Schaeuble with Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Bundestag on Sept 6. His 45 years in the Bundestag make him Germany's longest-serving lawmaker.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Schaeuble is deeply respected for tight control of public finances

BERLIN • Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is ready to give up his post and become president of Germany's Parliament, ending his eight-year term as the euro area's dominant finance chief, his party said yesterday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's parliamentary group plans to nominate Mr Schaeuble, 75, for the post of Bundestag president at a meeting on Oct 17, caucus head Volker Kauder said in a statement.

"We are pleased that Wolfgang Schaeuble has agreed to become a candidate for the position (of president of the Bundestag)," Mr Kauder said in the statement.

The Chief Whip of Dr Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and his counterpart with their Bavarian sister party CSU, Mr Alexander Dobrindt, are to formally nominate him, officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

The Finance Ministry declined to comment.

If Mr Schaeuble takes on the new post, it would throw the Finance Ministry open to negotiations between Dr Merkel's Christian Democrat-led bloc and potential coalition partners in her next government, the pro-market Free Democrats and the Greens.

The fiscally hawkish Free Democrats (FDP) have said they want to run the Finance Ministry in any new government.

"Last of the great West Germans," former British government official Rupert Harrison, who is now a portfolio manager at BlackRock, said on Twitter. "Him stepping down is end of an era, even if you disagree with his take on e.g. fiscal policy."

Mr Schaeuble is deeply respected at home for his tight control of public finances since taking on the job in 2009, but is loathed in Greece and elsewhere in southern Europe for his insistence on tough austerity steps during the euro zone crisis.

His looming departure from the powerful post is the first major fallout from the German election on Sunday, which handed Dr Merkel a fourth term while lifting the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, into Parliament, giving seats to a far-right party for the first time since the immediate aftermath of World War II.

Mr Schaeuble's 45 years in the Bundestag, or Lower House, make him Germany's longest-serving lawmaker and de facto elder statesman. He has been confined to a wheelchair since being shot at an election rally in 1990.

That gravitas led other mainstream political leaders to prod Mr Schaeuble to take the Bundestag post as a way to rein in the populist party on its biggest platform yet.

The current Bundestag President, CDU lawmaker Norbert Lammert, is not up for re-election.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2017, with the headline 'German finance chief set to head Parliament'. Print Edition | Subscribe