Merkel’s Third-Term Cabinet: Social Democratic Party Ministers

The following are the Social Democratic Party members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s third-term cabinet.

The SPD, which is set to become Merkel’s junior coalition partner this week, has six posts in the 16-member cabinet as announced by SPD Chairman Sigmar Gabriel in Berlin today. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, with seven cabinet posts including that of chancellor, and its CSU Bavarian ally, with three, will name their respective ministers later today. Merkel and her cabinet are due to be sworn in on Dec. 17.

Sigmar Gabriel, 54 (economy and energy)

The SPD chairman since 2009, when the party had its worst postwar election loss, Gabriel has turned the Social Democrats’ third successive electoral defeat to Merkel on Sept. 22 into a share of government, after successfully navigating the three-month process of coalition negotiations and a ballot of about 475,000 party members, who endorsed the accord.

Gabriel served in Merkel’s first-term government from 2005 to 2009 as environment minister. Before that, he was active in regional politics in Lower Saxony, rising to the state premiership in 1999, a year after Gerhard Schroeder resigned the same post to become chancellor. Gabriel, who will probably be made vice-chancellor by Merkel, takes on responsibility for Germany’s energy overhaul as part of a newly configured Economy Ministry.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, 57 (foreign affairs)

A protégé and former chief-of-staff of SPD Chancellor Schroeder, Steinmeier operated behind the scenes coordinating security policy with the U.S. in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks. Following Schroeder’s electoral loss and the SPD’s shift to become Merkel’s junior partner in 2005, Steinmeier was appointed foreign minister.

As vice-chancellor toward the end of Merkel’s first term, Steinmeier was chosen to run against Merkel as the party’s candidate in 2009 -- leading to the SPD’s worst defeat since World War II. For the past four years he’s led the party’s caucus in the Bundestag as opposition leader. In August 2010, he left politics temporarily to donate a kidney to his wife. Since then, polls consistently show him to be among Germany’s most popular politicians.

Andrea Nahles, 43 (labor and social affairs)

A head of the Social Democratic youth organization in the 1990s, Nahles was an outspoken critic within the party of Schroeder’s Agenda 2010 labor policies. As party leaders sought to reconcile the bickering factions in the post-Schroeder era, Nahles gained in leverage and became general secretary in 2009. She oversaw the SPD’s electoral campaign.

She takes on a key ministry for the SPD, which won a concession from Merkel to implement a national minimum hourly wage of 8.50 euros ($11.68).

Manuela Schwesig, 39 (families, pensioners, women and youth)

Schwesig, who like Merkel grew up in East Germany, has established herself in regional politics in the Baltic coastal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania where Merkel has her electoral district.

In 2009, she was recruited by Steinmeier to advocate the national party’s family-friendly policies during his losing campaign for chancellor, and repeated that role this year. She now moves from her current role as the regional state minister for labor, equality and social affairs to federal families minister, a position also occupied by Merkel in her first cabinet post under CDU Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Barbara Hendricks, 61 (environment, building and nuclear-reactor safety)

Hendricks served as deputy minister under three finance ministers: Oskar Lafontaine, Hans Eichel and Peer Steinbrueck, who ran against Merkel in this year’s election. She has been party treasurer since 2007.

Hendricks is from the SPD heartland of North Rhine-Westphalia, where she’s played a role in state politics since the late 1980s.

Heiko Maas, 47 (justice and consumer protection)

Maas was the surprise appointment of the SPD’s cabinet picks. The SPD leader in the western state of Saarland, he has experience of serving in a coalition with Merkel’s Christian Democrats: he has been deputy prime minister in Saarland since May 2012 after opting for a grand coalition following the SPD’s defeat in a regional election by the CDU.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at

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