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German governor is ill, prompting change to Merkel's Cabinet

Associated Press logo Associated Press 30/05/2017
FILE - In this March 8, 2017 file photo German Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth Manuela Schwesig arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting of the German government at the chancellery in Berlin. Schwesig is proposed by Erwin Sellering as his replacement as governor of Germany's northeastern Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state after the 67-year-old Sellering said Tuesday, May 30, 2017 he is stepping down after he has been diagnosed with lymph cancer that needs immediate treatment. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, file ) © The Associated Press FILE - In this March 8, 2017 file photo German Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth Manuela Schwesig arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting of the German government at the chancellery in Berlin. Schwesig is proposed by Erwin Sellering as his replacement as governor of Germany's northeastern Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state after the 67-year-old Sellering said Tuesday, May 30, 2017 he is stepping down after he has been diagnosed with lymph cancer that needs immediate treatment. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, file )

BERLIN — A popular German state governor announced Tuesday that he is stepping down after being diagnosed with cancer, prompting a change to Chancellor Angela Merkel's federal Cabinet less than four months before a national election.

Erwin Sellering, the center-left governor of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, said he has been diagnosed with lymph cancer that needs immediate treatment. Sellering, 67, proposed as his replacement Manuela Schwesig, the minister for families in Chancellor Angela Merkel's national coalition government.

Schwesig is one of the most prominent figures in the Social Democratic Party, which is the junior partner in the federal government but leads the administration in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

Party leader Martin Schulz, who is also Merkel's challenger in Germany's Sept. 24 national election, said Schwesig will be replaced in the Cabinet by Katarina Barley. She is currently the Social Democrats' general secretary, the official responsible for the party's day-to-day political strategy.

That job, which is important as the Social Democrats try to recover from a string of recent state election defeats and mount a strong challenge to Merkel, will go to senior lawmaker Hubertus Heil. He already served as general secretary from 2005 to 2009.

Both Merkel's conservatives and Schulz's Social Democrats hope to end their national "grand coalition" of Germany's biggest parties after the September election. Polls currently suggest that Merkel is well-placed to win a fourth four-year term.

Sellering has been Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania's governor since 2008 and his popularity helped carry his party to victory in a state election last September.

The state, located on the Baltic Sea coast of the former East Germany, is one of the country's least prosperous. It is also where Merkel has her parliamentary constituency.

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