Smallest partner approves deal on new German government

10 February, 2018, 06:46 | Author: Franklin Nunez
  • Heavy price for coalition

After the election in September, SPD leader Martin Schulz ruled out another "grand coalition" with the conservatives. Should the vote fail, Germany could be headed to an unprecedented new election. Merkel has been fighting to remain in power since September's disastrous elections and the price she pays could be heavy, with her new government set to be much more active in pursuing greater European integration and reform and Schulz, the former European parliament president who has called for a United States of Europe, ensconced in Cabinet as foreign minister.

Schulz managed this week to clinch a coalition deal with Merkel's CDU/CSU that gave his centre-left SPD six ministries as well as securing a string of policy concessions.

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A survey by pollsters Civey found this week that around 60 percent of SPD supporters would back the party entering government once again.

There remains one significant hurdle (as well as some dotting of i's and crossing of t's, in the form of party conference votes): SPD members get to vote on accepting the final agreement. And there's been all sorts of last-minute drama, with the SPD's Martin Schulz forced into personal climbdown after climbdown to appease his own party. The paper cited Friedrich Merz, a former CDU rival whom Merkel sidelined after becoming party chairwoman in 2000, as saying the coalition deal was a "humiliation" for the Christian Democrats.

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The agreement for a renewed "grand coalition" comes after days of marathon talks in which negotiators from all three parties haggled over everything from foreign policy to labor issues and healthcare.

But it is unclear whether the party membership will be as open to supporting Merkel.

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Hailing from the Eifel region bordering Luxembourg and Belgium, Nahles joined the SPD 30 years ago and rose through the ranks as a fiery left-winger praised by ex-SPD leader Oskar Lafontaine as a "gift from God" for the party. On Thursday night, outgoing Foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel's lashed out at the SPD leadership for having a lack of respect for party members. A furious Gabriel has accused the party he led for eight years of shafting him. In addition to the controversy over Schulz, Merkel herself has been under fire for giving key ministries to the SPD to extend her 12-year reign over Europe's biggest economy. Gabriel said Germans appear to think he has been successful "and it's clear I regret that the new Social Democrat leadership didn't care about this public appreciation of my work".

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