Merkel’s chief of staff to take over as acting German finance minister, newspaper reports

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff will become acting finance minister when Wolfgang Schaeuble leaves office, the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Friday, amid signs that coalition negotiations could last beyond Christmas.

The newspaper, without citing its sources, said Merkel had decided Peter Altmaier would take over from Schaeuble, a veteran conservative who agreed on Wednesday to become president of the parliament to clear the way for someone from another party to take his job [nL8N1M825W].

Altmaier presumably would take over after the 75-year-old Schaeuble is nominated by Merkel’s conservatives at a meeting on Oct. 17. He would then likely give up the job to whomever is named by a new coalition partner of the conservatives, probably a candidate from the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP).

The conservatives, who won a national election on Sunday, look set to try and form a coalition with the FDP and environmentalist Greens after the Social Democrats (SPD) said they would go into opposition.

Some 59 percent of Germans support such a three-way coalition, a survey for broadcaster ZDF found. But the combination – often called a “Jamaica” coalition because the parties’ colors of black, yellow and green match those of the Jamaican flag – has never been tested on the national level.

The parties must overcome serious differences on issues such as migration, energy, taxes and Europe. Many experts say it is far from clear that they would agree to such a coalition.

Complicating the talks is a debate between Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the CSU. The CSU has redoubled its insistence on limiting migration after losing around 10 percentage points in Sunday’s elections. Merkel has opposed introducing a migrant cap.

Only a fifth of Germans, or 23 percent, prefer a repeat of the alternative – a “grand coalition” of Merkel’s conservatives and the SPD, which has governed…

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