German Chancellor Angela Merkel has given a cabinet position to her most outspoken critic within her party, in a bid to overcome unrest in the right wing of the group.
Mrs Merkel has named 37-year-old Jens Spahn as health minister in her new cabinet Sunday following a meeting of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party.
The German leader has come under intense criticism from fellow party members after a September election saw her lead the CDU to its worst election result in post-war history.
In order to secure a new “grand coalition” and a fourth term as chancellor, Mrs Merkel has surrendered key ministries, including finance and foreign affairs, to appease her partners in the CDU’s Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
Mr Spahn has been at the forefront of the backlash against Mrs Merkel, attacking her centrist policies, in particular her decision to welcome an influx of more than a million refugees in 2015, which contributed to the growing popularity of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
He has also notably clashed with Mrs Merkel on the issue of marriage equality. An openly gay man in a long-term relationship, Mr Spahn was a vocal proponent of legalising same-sex marriage before it was brought to a vote in German parliament and approved last June. Mrs Merkel was opposed and voted “no” to the bill.
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The promotion of Mr Spahn is being read as a sign of Mrs Merkel’s softening power, as she heeds calls for party renewal and a smooth succession after her final term.
At the news conference, she spoke of the cabinet being “a tableau of people that is future-oriented,” adding that she is the only member over 60 years old.
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She said Mr Spahn was a "representative of the younger generation” and that the deputy finance minister and party health expert would be the right person to modernise Germany’s healthcare system.
The chancellor also appointed long-standing ally Peter Altmaier as economy minister and kept on Ursula von der Leyen as defence minister.
The CDU is set to vote on the deal at a meeting on Monday, but approval is expected to be a formality, especially considering Mr Spahn’s appointment is likely to assuage the party’s right-wingers.
The SPD still needs to approve the arrangement, with the results of a crunch membership ballot due to be announced on March 4.
If its members vote "no" in the postal and online ballot, Germany faces more political paralysis and probable snap elections that would threaten an end to Mrs Merkel’s 12 years in power.