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Coalition of broken promises

Germany
07.02.2018
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Merkel pays heavy price for coalition deal, but still faces hurdles
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has paid a hefty price to end months of political deadlock and seal a coalition deal between her conservatives and the Social Democrats (SPD), but has weeks to go before forming a government.
GALLERY
Merkel‘s Christian Democrats (CDU), their Bavarian-based Christian Social Union (CSU) allies and the centre-left SPD struck an agreement after 24 hours of talks that stretched into Wednesday.

But the more than 170-page coalition agreement still faces major hurdles before Merkel can secure her fourth term in power following September‘s inconclusive election result.
Merkel defended her party‘s ceding of top ministries, saying "we had to make compromises" to reach a coalition agreement.

The SPD‘s about 463,000 members will now vote on the agreement in an unpredictable ballot after Germany‘s top court rejected petitions to block the planned poll.

The results of the SPD vote are expected to be announced during the first weekend in March.

Large sections of the SPD are opposed to renewing the party‘s coalition with Merkel and instead would prefer that it go into opposition after the humiliating result in September - its worst since 1949 - plunged the 154-year-old party into a identity crisis.

If the SPD membership agrees to endorse the coalition deal, a parliamentary vote backing Merkel as chancellor could be held a few days later.

This would mean that Europe‘s biggest economy would have been without a government for almost six months.

While the CSU party executive is also to consider the coalition agreement at a meeting on Thursday, the CDU is scheduled to debate it at a party conference due at the end of February.

Merkel has already been weakened by her party‘s poor showing in September and the collapse in November of coalition talks with the environmental Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats.

Now, she has been forced to make major concessions during the horse-trading over cabinet posts to achieve a breakthrough and set her on a path to forming a new government.

In addition to sacrificing the powerful finance and foreign portfolios to the SPD, the CDU has also handed the Interior Ministry to the CSU. The SPD retains the big-budget labour and social affairs portfolio.

Merkel defended her party‘s ceding of top ministries, saying "we had to make compromises" to reach a coalition agreement.

Despite the SPD grabbing the major cabinet spots, Merkel said the CDU had retained "important portfolios" including health and agriculture.

The chancellor said the deal would form the basis of "a good and stable government," adding that in the end the more than three weeks of coalition negotiations "had been worth it."

She went on to say that solid finances and investment in social areas would be the trademarks of her new government.

However, Merkel‘s new cabinet does not appear to represent the breath of fresh air or generational change that many - especially younger - voters had been clamouring for, with ministries dominated by familiar political hands.

This includes the SPD mayor of the northern city of Hamburg, Olaf Scholz, as finance minister and vice chancellor, SPD leader Martin Schulz as foreign minister and CSU chief Horst Seehofer heading a "super ministry" - an Interior Ministry with a boosted portfolio handling construction along with the critical areas of immigration, refugees and domestic security.

Kevin Kuehnert, the head of the SPD youth wing Jusos, which has spearheaded opposition in the party to the new coalition, tweeted that he was "stunned" by the agreement. He said that rejecting the new government also meant "rejecting the political style that is practised today."

Schulz told SPD leadership later Wednesday that he plans to hand over his post to party parliamentary leader Andrea Nahles, SPD officials told dpa.

The 62-year-old Schulz, who took over the job in January last year, will step down from the job following the conclusion of the balloting of SPD members on the deal on March 2.

The CDU-CSU and the SPD broke the deadlock in the talks by agreeing to the creation of a commission to consider the SPD‘s demand for a radical makeover of the health insurance system, which had been a major stumbling block in the negotiations.

The parties have also reached agreements on housing, rent controls, refugees, steps to boost electric vehicles and other areas.

Negotiators have agreed to introduce a new immigration law to help address gaps in the nation‘s labour market; signed off on an 11-billion-euro (13.6-billion-dollar) education and digitalization package; and proposed a plan to boost spending on research to 3.5 per cent of gross domestic by 2025.

 

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