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SPD signs up to new Merkel-led government.

Summary: Germany's Social Democrats decisively backed another coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives Sunday, clearing the way for a new government in Europe's largest economy after months of political stalemate.

BERLIN: Germany's Social Democrats decisively backed another coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives Sunday, clearing the way for a new government in Europe's largest economy after months of political stalemate.

But the veteran leader will go into her fourth term with weaker cards than before, paying a high price to coax the reluctant Social Democrats (SPD) back into another loveless "grand coalition."

Two-thirds of the SPD's rank and file voted "Yes" to the deal in a ballot -- a wider margin than expected.

Congratulating the SPD for its "clear result," Merkel said she was looking forward to "further cooperation for the good of our country," according to a tweet attributed to her on her CDU party's account.

Stung by their worst postwar results, the SPD had initially ruled out another four years governing in Merkel's shadow.

However, after Merkel's attempt to cobble together a government with two smaller parties failed, the SPD relented.

"We now have clarity. The SPD will be in the next government," said SPD's caretaker Chairman Olaf Scholz, adding that his party plans to send three male and three female ministers to the Cabinet.

European partners waiting impatiently for Germany to end its longest stretch of coalition haggling since the end of the war heaved a sigh of relief, with French President Emmanuel Macron calling the SPD decision "good news for Europe."

Merkel is expected to launch her fourth government by mid-March.

But the long-serving leader faces a far rockier road ahead.

The crushing majority enjoyed by her conservatives and the SPD in the last coalition has been trimmed to a slim 56 percent (399 out of total 709) of seats in Germany's Parliament this time around.

Both sides had been weakened as voters angered by Merkel's 2015 decision to open Germany's borders to migrants turned to the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD). The AfD, which would be the biggest opposition party in Germany as the SPD joins the government, vowed to go after Merkel's CDU over its "continuation of the immigration policy without imposing a limit."

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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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Mar 5, 2018
Words:410
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