(Reuters) - German voters gave conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel a second term on Sunday and allowed her to dump her center-left coalition partners in favor of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP).
Below is a summary of how top cabinet positions could look under a new center-right coalition:
* FINANCE MINISTER - FDP veteran HERMANN OTTO SOLMS, 68, is considered a leading candidate to take over this key post, which will have responsibility for reducing Germany’s soaring debt and deficit levels and nursing the country’s fragile banks back to health. Solms has served as his party’s treasurer and parliamentary leader during a career in the Bundestag lower house that spans three decades. He is respected within the party as competent and serious. If Merkel’s conservatives claim this post, the CSU’s rising star KARL-THEODOR ZU GUTTENBERG, 37, is expected to move across from his current post as economy minister. Guttenberg, who has the title of Baron, has emerged as one of Germany’s most popular politicians, making a name for himself by taking stands against state intervention to help firms like Opel and Arcandor.
* FOREIGN MINISTER - FDP leader GUIDO WESTERWELLE, 47, has this post locked up if his party is able to form a coalition with Merkel’s conservatives. A former lawyer who is openly gay, he has run the party since 2001 and would likely ensure continuity in foreign policy, while speaking out more forcefully on human rights abuses in countries like Russia and China and pushing disarmament.
* ECONOMY MINISTER - If GUTTENBERG (see above) switches to the finance ministry, this post is expected to go to FDP deputy parliamentary leader RAINER BRUEDERLE, 64, who has been a member of the Bundestag since 1998 after serving as deputy premier of the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate for a decade. The post could lose some of its influence within the cabinet if the dynamic, media-friendly Guttenberg is replaced.
* INTERIOR MINISTER - Veteran CDU member WOLFGANG SCHAEUBLE, 66, whose tough stances on domestic security and surveillance have made him a lightning rod for critics on the left and within the FDP, could stay in this post. But Merkel could also opt to put her current chief of staff THOMAS DE MAIZIERE, 55, in this sensitive position. The diplomatic De Maiziere would be more likely to forge compromises with the FDP on sensitive security issues and could depart from Schaeuble’s tough stance on accepting Guantanamo Bay inmates to help President Barack Obama close the prison for suspected al Qaeda and Taliban militants.
* Defense MINISTER - Until recently, CDU incumbent FRANZ JOSEF JUNG, 60, was seen as sure to keep his post, but criticism of his handling of a controversial German-ordered air strike in Afghanistan has raised questions about whether he will stay on. If he goes, GUTTENBERG (see above) is seen as a possibility. A new face from Merkel’s party could also take over, possibly CDU parliamentary foreign policy expert ECKART VON KLAEDEN, 43.
Writing by Noah Barkin, editing by Mark Trevelyan