BERLIN (AP) — Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany's finance minister for the last eight years and a key figure in the eurozone debt crisis, looks set to become the new speaker of Germany's parliament.
The leaders in parliament of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Union bloc said Wednesday that they plan to nominate Schaeuble, 75, next month as the speaker — a job that traditionally goes to the biggest party. Winning the job would mean that he won't serve in the new Cabinet.
"We are glad that Wolfgang Schaeuble has said he is prepared to be a candidate," caucus leader Volker Kauder said.
The speaker is usually elected with cross-party support.
The job — which in protocol terms is Germany's second-highest, behind the president but ahead of the chancellor — is vacant because incumbent Norbert Lammert didn't seek re-election to parliament in Sunday's vote. Lammert, a fellow conservative, has been speaker since Merkel became chancellor in 2005.
His successor will likely face a tougher job running a lower house that has six political groups rather than four in the outgoing parliament. Those will include the nationalist Alternative for Germany, or AfD, for the first time. The party won 93 of the 709 seats in parliament after a campaign that centered on shrill criticism of Merkel and her 2015 decision to let in large numbers of migrants.
Schaeuble would bring decades of experience to the job. He is the longest-serving member of parliament, which he joined in 1972. He served twice as Germany's interior minister, helping negotiate the country's reunification in 1990. As finance minister since 2009, he has been a powerful figure in shaping the austerity-heavy response to the eurozone's troubles.
Sunday's election weakened Merkel's conservatives but still left them with easily the biggest parliamentary group. Their center-left partners in the outgoing government, the Social Democrats, crashed to their worst result since World War II and vowed to go into opposition.
That leaves Merkel seeking a new coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats and the traditionally left-leaning Greens, a combination that has never been tried in a national government. Those parties are expected to insist on securing key ministries, possibly including the Finance Ministry.
The Free Democrats' leader, Christian Lindner, immediately endorsed Schaeuble's candidacy for speaker.
"Wolfgang Schaeuble has a natural authority that is of particular significance at the head of the German parliament in these times," he said.
The Social Democrats also signaled their support.
Schaeuble is "a very experienced politician who has seen it all and has the necessary authority," their newly elected chief whip, Carsten Schneider, told the news agency dpa.