German cabinet takes shape as coalition talks enter final stretch

FILE PHOTO: Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) candidate for chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a statement in Berlin, Germany, November 17, 2021. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's next cabinet is taking shape as coalition negotiations near a deal, with chancellor-in-waiting Olaf Scholz determined to deliver on his campaign pledge to have as many women as men in his team, sources said on Saturday.

Scholz's centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), who narrowly won the federal election in September by beating Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, are trying to form a three-way ruling coalition with the pro-spending Greens and the fiscally conservative Free Democrats (FDP).

The SPD is set to nominate three women for cabinet posts: outgoing Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, outgoing Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht and Scholz's former running mate in the race for party co-leadership Klara Geywitz, three people familiar with the decision told Reuters.

Schulze is expected to become economy minister, Lambrecht will likely be in charge of the interior portfolio including migration and Geywitz could get the science and education ministry, the sources said.

Among the SPD men, Scholz will lead the next government as chancellor, his right-hand man Wolfgang Schmidt is expected to become his chief of staff and Labour Minister Hubertus Heil is set to keep his job thanks to his strong performance during the COVID-19 pandemic, the sources said.

Coalition officials have repeatedly said that cabinet posts will be decided at the very end of coalition negotiations. Party officials have hinted that an agreement could be reached in the coming week, possibly as early as Monday or Tuesday.

FDP leader Christian Lindner is pushing to become finance minister, though Greens co-leader Robert Habeck is also keen on getting the top job to guarantee enough public resources to pay for Germany's faster shift towards a climate-friendly economy.

On Friday, Lindner said fears he would be a fiscal hawk as finance minister were overblown despite his repeated calls for solid public finances and debt reduction after the coronavirus crisis.

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber and Christian Kraemer; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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