Social Democrats sign up to new Merkel-led German government

  • Social Democrats sign up to new Merkel-led German government

Social Democrats sign up to new Merkel-led German government

Germany's second biggest party said yesterday its members have in their high-stakes referendum approved a plan to join Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition, clearing the last hurdle in the way of the veteran leader's fourth term. The period saw the rise of a new rightist force in German politics and raised questions about Merkel's future.

Merkel could be sworn in as chancellor by mid-March. It almost ended six months of political oblivion and set Germany on a path of stability. From Austria to Greece and Hungary, stretching north into the Scandinavian nations and west into France and Germany themselves, Euroscepticism is alive and well on both the left and right. "For solidarity in Germany and European Union!"

The Social Democrats had furiously debated whether to extend the so-called grand coalition of left and right for another four years after suffering a slump in September's election. That's down from the 76 percent of Social Democrats who voted in 2013 to back a government with Merkel.

Speaking after his meeting with German counterpart Peter Altmaier on January 18, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Marie said that the two governments want to agree a joint position on convergence issues, including in the area of corporate taxation, by mid-2018.

In the next few days, the Social Democrats will put forward six names - three women and three men - to lead the ministries they will control in the upcoming coalition, he said. Much of the talk leading up to the final tally was that the party was evenly split and that the vote could easily go either way, but it appears SPD Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks had the more accurate assessment when she came out on Thursday to say the vote would most like end with 60-percent in favor of joining the coalition agreement.

Ms Merkel congratulated the SPD on a "clear result".

Some analysts said the common currency would be buoyed by Merkel now being able to partner with France on President Emmanuel Macron's ambitious eurozone reform plans. Merkel, 63, is scheduled to be sworn in for her fourth term as chancellor on March 14.

The SPD must now sign the agreement; the CDU signed it last week at a party conference.

If the coalition is rejected by the Social Democrats, the result could be a new election — or a minority government, which is unprecedented in postwar Germany.