Tensions within Germany’s grand coalition may increase following the resignation for Vice Chancellor Franz Muentefering. The top Social Democrat (SPD) in Angela Merkel’s government has quit to spend more time with his wife who has reportedly been seriously ill with cancer. Muentefering has been a stabilising influence in the awkward coalition of arch-rival parties that was forced upon Merkel following her narrow election victory two years ago.
Paying tribute to what he called his successful cooperative work, CDU general secretary, Ronald Pofalla, said Muentefering was a “pillar within the government” and it was up to the SPD to fill the void created by his departure. That role is almost certain to go Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier.
He has worked harmoniously with Merkel for much of the past two years, but has adopted a more critical tone recently, attacking the Chancellor for damaging relations with China and Russia by focusing on human rights.
Muentefering’s also served as labour minister and his exit sets the stage for a minor cabinet reshuffle which is likely to see Olaf Scholz, the SPD’s whip in parliament, promoted to take over that portfolio.