Merkel FDP allies trigger German cabinet reshuffle

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Germany's pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition, Tuesday triggered a cabinet reshuffle by designating a new economy minister.

The small FDP party decides who holds the cabinet posts attributed to it under the terms of the coalition deal agreed in 2009 with Merkel's conservatives.

Philipp Roesler, 38, the outgoing health minister who is expected to take over as FDP leader this weekend, annnounced Tuesday that he had been chosen by his parliamentary faction to replace outgoing economy minister Rainer Bruederle, 65, who is himself tipped to take over as FDP parliamentary leader.

The changes follow a decision by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle not to seek re-election as party leader following a string of election debacles for his party since the start of the year.

Once Roesler has been elected leader at a party conference this weekend -- he is the only declared candidate -- he will take over from Westerwelle as vice chancellor, or number two in Merkel's cabinet.

Westerwelle, 49, however has said he intends to remain foreign minister.

It was not immediately known if Merkel would take advantage of changes brought about by the FDP to further revamp her cabinet.

Roesler, who was adopted as an child from a Vietnamese orphanage by a German family, was only appointed to the federal cabinet in 2009.

He will take over as party chief from Westerwelle who had held the job for the past 10 years.

A heart and chest surgeon by training, Roesler last year helped steer a controversial set of health reforms through parliament which increased the financial burden on patients in an attempt to address healthcare deficits.

Merkel swept to a second term at the helm of Europe's top economy largely on the coattails of the FDP, which secured a record 14.6 percent in federal elections in September 2009.

But the party has since sunk to new depths in the polls, scoring roughly five percent nationally, the threshold for parliamentary representation. It also failed to win parliamentary seats in two recent regional elections and only just managed to do so in a third.

© 2011 AFP

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