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The future of Merkel’s right-hand man is unclear with German elections looming

  • Germany's Free Democrats (FDP) — a potential coalition partner with the ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) — has said that it would want to be in charge of the Finance Ministry if it becomes part of the next government
  • Smaller coalition partners in Germany traditionally opt for the Foreign Ministry
  • A recent survey showed that Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is the third most popular politician in Germany, after Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble
Franziska Kraufmann | AFP | Getty Images
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble

Wolfgang Schaeuble received an unwanted birthday present this week, with discussions over his future as Germany's Finance chief occurring on the same day he turned 75.

Germany's Free Democrats (FDP) — a potential coalition partner with Schaeuble's Christian Democrats (CDU) after Sunday's general election — has said that it would want to be in charge of the Finance Ministry if it becomes part of the next government.

Traditionally, a smaller coalition partner in Germany picks a ministry more or less at their own will. This used to be the Foreign Ministry, as this job normally has a very high popularity for the incumbent and thus is said to be good for the party.

However, the FDP, the SPD (the Social Democratic Party of Germany) and also the Greens seem to have changed their thinking. There is a wide consensus that it was a mistake to have left the influential Finance Ministry to a man from the CDU.

Sunday's election results and Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition negotiations afterwards will therefore decide whether the highly respected and popular Wolfgang Schaeuble will stay for the next four years. His popularity is among the highest: A recent survey by ARD, the public broadcaster, showed that he is the third most popular politician in Germany, after Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

One alternative which is already being discussed in the corridors of Berlin is to enthrone him as president of the parliament, a mostly ceremonial role but important for the political discourse.

Nonetheless, Schaeuble himself seems to be hoping for another outcome. He seems as fresh like a daisy despite his 75 years and is still full of political energy.