BERLIN (AP) – Center-left lawmaker Baerbel Bas will be the new speaker of the German Parliament, replacing veteran conservative politician and former finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in one of the most prominent positions in the country.
Leaders of the Social Democratic parliamentary group, which emerged as the strongest party in the September 26 elections, backed Bas on Wednesday. That clears the way for the new 736-seat lower house, or Bundestag, to elect it when it meets for the first time on Tuesday.
Bas, 53, has been a member of the chamber since 2009. She was her party’s vice president in the outgoing parliament and its spokesperson on health, education and research.
In Germany, the post of president of the Bundestag belongs to the party with the largest representation, and the rest of the parties appoint vice-presidents. The Social Democrats narrowly defeated the center-right Christian Democratic Union of Chancellor Angel Merkel in the elections.
That means Schaeuble, 79, will step down as president after four years. Schaeuble is the oldest MP, having served since 1972. He was twice interior minister and finance minister during the eurozone debt crisis.
Nominating Bas solves a dilemma for Social Democrats after Rolf Muetzenich, head of the parliamentary group, was mentioned as a contender. With Merkel retiring, the party risked creating a situation in which all important positions in Germany – chancellor, president, presidents of both houses of parliament and the head of the supreme court – were in the hands of men.
Many party members were eager to avoid this situation. Bas will now become the third woman to chair the Bundestag.