German Social Democrats to Seek More Women in Merkel Cabinet

Germany’s Social Democrats are preparing a demand for equal distribution of jobs for women as part of a coalition deal with Chancellor Angela Merkel, adding to the party’s list of requirements going into talks this week.

The SPD women’s group, which represents 42 percent of the seats won by the party in the Sept. 22 elections, plans to push for half of all SPD government and parliamentary posts to be held by women. It also aims to demand binding legislation to get more women into management positions at top German companies.

“It’s been shown that self-regulation doesn’t work,” Petra Ernstberger, one of four parliamentary leaders of the SPD, said today in a telephone interview. “Obviously, it has to be binding that women are given the same chance” as men. “We’re going to push this issue far harder than we have up to now.”

Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc won the election with the highest share of the vote since 1990 and holds a 119-seat advantage over the SPD, yet the chancellor still needs a coalition partner to govern. The SPD is using that leverage to try and win concessions from Merkel as they prepare for exploratory talks on forming a government on Oct. 4.

Quotas for women adds to calls from various members of the SPD to introduce a uniform minimum hourly wage of 8.50 euros ($11.53) and an increase to 49 percent in the 42 percent income-tax bracket. It is also demanding six cabinet posts in any future “grand coalition” with Merkel, including the Finance Ministry currently headed by Wolfgang Schaeuble.

French Comparison

At present there are 16 cabinet portfolios held by 15 ministers including the chancellor: eight are held by Merkel’s CDU; five by her Free Democratic coalition partner, which failed to win any seats in the election; and three by Merkel’s CSU Bavarian sister party.

Women occupied six of the 16 posts in Merkel’s cabinet until the election. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, whose Socialists are allied with Germany’s Social Democratic Party, has 20 ministers, half of them women.

Merkel’s CDU needs the backing of the Social Democrat-controlled upper house to pass legislation in the three most pressing policy areas facing the next government: federal and state finances, Europe and energy, said Stefan Schneider, chief international economist at Deutsche Bank AG in Frankfurt.

Hermann Groehe, the general secretary of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said yesterday that his party won’t agree to tax rises after Merkel dismissed the prospect during the campaign as “poison” for the economy. Andrea Nahles, Groehe’s SPD counterpart, said the negotiations could last until January.

“Germany is moving in big steps towards a centrist coalition government,” Schneider said in a research note. That means Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc “will have to provide substantial concessions to the SPD to make it happen.”

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