FT – Wolfgang Schaeuble, the powerful German finance minister and austerity advocate, is to step down from his position in a move that could usher in a new era of uncertainty in European policymaking.
Mr Schaeuble’s departure comes just three days after national elections in which Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc suffered its worst result since 1949 and the far right anti immigration, eurosceptic Alternative for Germany party entered the Bundestag for the first time.
Ms Merkel faces the arduous task of negotiating a new three-way coalition government with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens, two parties that have widely divergent views on the EU and eurozone reform.
Mr Schaeuble’s exit could make it more likely that the finance ministry will go to one of Ms Merkel’s coalition partners, such as the FDP, which has long had its sights set on the finance ministry.
The 75-year-old Mr Schäuble will become speaker of the Bundestag, at a time when concerns have been raised about how the AfD’s rise will affect Germany’s political culture.
The belief in Berlin is that with unruly populists taking their place in the legislature, it will need a strong, experienced hand to maintain order.
Wheelchair-bound since being shot in 1990, Mr Schaeuble is one of Germany’s great political veterans, having first entered parliament 45 years ago. He was long expected to succeed Helmut Kohl as chancellor, who named him as his preferred successor in 1997. But following an undeclared party donations scandal uncovered in late 1999, Helmut Kohl and Wolfgang Schaeuble lost their political influence, with Angela Merkel later emerging as the the leader of the CPU with the backing of Schaeuble.