Angela Merkel has surprised many by naming a woman for the first time as Germany’s next defence minister.
The announcement follows Saturday’s vote by the wider membership of the Social Democrats to approve a deal to join Merkel’s Christian Democrats in a grand coalition.
“The new defence minister will be Ursula Von der Leyen. Those who know her, know that she has always had an interest in international issues alongside social policies. And I think that this is a great combination for a German defence minister,” said Merkel.
Von der Leyen is a controversial figure in the conservative wing of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, in part for openly defying
the chancellor on women’s rights as labour minister in a battle that erupted five months before the election.
Between them the CDU, its sister party the CSU and the SPD have allotted all the government posts – but most of the key ministries including finance, health and interior have all gone to Merkel’s conservatives.
The one exception is foreign affairs.
SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel put some positive spin on the division of portfolios:
“There are seven ministers (of the SPD), four woman and three men who will sit at the cabinet table. It starts with Frank-Walter Steinmeier as head of the Foreign Ministry, probably the most high-profile foreign affairs politician.”
Last month Merkel and leaders of the centre-left SPD finally agreed a deal to form a coalition pending membership approval.
Merkel will begin her third term on Tuesday – three months after winning the September 22 election.