New German Government Taps Lockdown Loving Lawmaker as New Health Minister

Designated German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (C) speaks next to designated German Cha
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BERLIN (AP) – Chancellor-designate Olaf Scholz announced Monday that an epidemiologist who has been a prominent voice of caution in the coronavirus pandemic will be Germany’s new health minister, part of a team that includes the first woman to become the country’s top security official.

Scholz presented his center-left Social Democrats’ nominees for the Cabinet hours before the last of the prospective partners in the new government, the environmentalist Greens, planned to announce whether their members have voted in a ballot to approve a three-party coalition deal.

That would clear the way for parliament to elect Scholz on Wednesday after conventions of the Social Democrats and the pro-business Free Democrats backed the accord at the weekend. His election will end the 16-year tenure of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The most closely watched appointment was that of the health minister, as Germany struggles to bring down its highest coronavirus infection rates of the pandemic so far. Scholz chose Karl Lauterbach, an epidemiologist and media-savvy lawmaker who lacks executive experience but has been one of Germany’s most prominent voices urging caution and strict measures against COVID-19 since the pandemic started.

“The pandemic is far from over,” said Scholz, arguing that “most people in this country certainly wanted the next health minister to be a specialist who can really do it well, and for him to be called Karl Lauterbach.”

Federal and state leaders last week announced tough new restrictions that largely target unvaccinated people. In a longer-term move, parliament will consider a general vaccine mandate.

Asked about prospects for the Christmas period, Lauterbach said that “an important aim must be to bring the case numbers down so far that we can recommend travel without endangering people.”

Announcing his choices for the interior and defense portfolios, Scholz said that “security will be in the hands of strong women in this government.”

Nancy Faeser, a lawyer who heads the party´s branch in the central state of Hesse, was an unexpected choice to become Germany’s first female interior minister, a post that includes oversight of federal police forces and the domestic intelligence agency. Faeser said that a major focus will be fighting far-right extremism, which she called “the biggest threat” to the country.

Outgoing Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht will become the new defense minister.

Klara Geywitz, a senior Social Democrat from eastern Germany who was Scholz’s partner in a failed bid for the party leadership in 2019, will head a new construction ministry. Outgoing Environment Minister Svenja Schulze becomes the minister for international development. Labor Minister Hubertus Heil will remain in his job.

Scholz’s chief of staff will be Wolfgang Schmidt, a longtime confidant of the incoming leader who has been his deputy finance minister in the outgoing government.

The Greens and Free Democrats already have named their ministers. Scholz’s vice chancellor will be Robert Habeck, one of the Greens’ co-leaders. He will head an economy and climate ministry, a new combination. The Greens’ other co-leader, Annalena Baerbock, will become Germany’s first female foreign minister after making her party’s first bid for the chancellery in the September election.

The Free Democrats’ leader, Christian Lindner, will become finance minister and effectively the No. 3 official in the new government.

Scholz had pledged a gender-balanced Cabinet – which it is, if one doesn’t count the chancellor. He said his own party’s choices reflected the fact that women should “have half of the power.”


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