BERLIN — Incoming German Chancellor Olaf Scholz named outspoken epidemiologist Karl Lauterbach, a champion of tough measures to tackle the coronavirus, as the country’s next health minister.
Lauterbach was one of seven Cabinet picks from the ranks of Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats (SPD) announced on Monday, before the new coalition government takes office on Wednesday.
Citing the continued challenge of the pandemic, Scholz told reporters it was clear Germans wanted Lauterbach to succeed Christian Democrat Jens Spahn as health minister.
“Most of the citizens of this country certainly wished that the next health minister would be a specialist, really good at what he does, and that his name would be Karl Lauterbach — and it will be,” Scholz said.
Lauterbach, an MP, is a polarizing figure in the SPD, due to his high public profile and outspoken comments. But he has gained in popularity with the public over the course of the pandemic.
The SPD’s other ministerial picks include several members of the outgoing Cabinet, in which the party served as junior partner to Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.
Incumbent Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht will become defense minister, while outgoing Environment Minister Svenja Schulze switches to the international development portfolio. Social Affairs Minister Hubertus Heil will stay in the same role.
Wolfgang Schmidt, a close Scholz ally who served as state secretary under the incoming chancellor in the finance ministry, will become chancellery minister.
Cabinet newcomers include Klara Geywitz, who was Scholz’s running mate in his unsuccessful bid to become SPD leader in 2019. She will become minister for housing, tasked with tackling a lack of affordable housing.
Nancy Faeser, a regional politician from the state of Hesse, was the surprise pick as interior minister. She will be the first woman to hold the post.
The SPD’s coalition partners revealed their Cabinet picks last week — three men and a woman for the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), and three women and two men for the Greens.
There will therefore be eight male and eight female ministers in Scholz’s first Cabinet.
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