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Germany's SPD in favour of coalition with Merkel

05 March, 2018, 01:58 | Author: Kristi Dunn
  • German Chancellor Merkel

Her political future hung on the whim of the SPD vote after her first attempt to form an coalition - with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and Greens - failed past year.

Merkel's survival drew cheers from her allies at home and overseas, with French President Emmanuel Macron declaring it "good news for Europe".

The challenges are piling up for Merkel, who has been acting chancellor for more than five months since an inconclusive election, with Europe looking to its largest country for leadership on a host of economic and security issues. In the end, though, two-thirds of its 464,000 members voted in favor of the coalition deal.

Addressing party activists lining the balconies around the atrium of the party's Berlin headquarters early on Sunday, acting SPD leader Olaf Scholz said: "We now have clarity: the SPD will join the next German government". "The SPD will enter the next government".

Pressure from German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier prompted Schulz to rethink and weeks of haggling between his party and Merkel's bloc resulted in a coalition agreement.

A crushing majority enjoyed by her conservatives and the SPD in the last coalition has been trimmed to a slim 56 percent of seats (399 out of total 709) in parliament this time round. Of 362,933 valid postal ballots, some 239,604 members backed entering the grand coalition - 66 per cent support - while 123,329 opposed. In a tweet, they labeled the SPD's decision a "catastrophe" for Germany, promising fierce opposition over the coming four years. However, SPD leaders exploited their leverage as Dr Merkel's last alternative to fresh elections to secure an expansionist programme for government as well as the key finance, foreign and labour ministries.

Wary of ceding further ground to the far-right Islamophobic outfit, Merkel's conservatives and the SPD have agreed to review their cooperation in two years.

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And despite Sunday's positive vote outcome, dissenting voices in the SPD remain loud.

The SPD ballot pitted the leadership of the center-left party against the radical youth wing, which wanted the SPD to rebuild in opposition after a disastrous election showing.

The tension within the party over its partnership with Merkel was illustrated by the silence that met news that the "Yes"-camp prevailed, prompting Spiegel Online to headline its story "Hardly any rejoicing".

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel expressed hope that the end of Germany's six-month political limbo would allow the European Union to step up efforts to deal with such issues as immigration, security and trade.

Spahn, 37, a former deputy to hardliner Wolfgang Schaeuble at the finance ministry, has repeatedly slammed Merkel's centrist policies, particularly on immigration.

But crucially, at a congress this week, her party also formally appointed its new general secretary, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, tapped by Merkel to kickstart the renewal process.

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