France's Macron happy with Merkel back in charge

Angela Merkel set for fourth term as Germany's chancellor after coalition deal agreed

Merkel's conservatives - her Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) allies - and the SPD are both still bruised after suffering from the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in last year's election.

Acting SPD leader Olaf Scholz said at the party's Berlin headquarters: "The vast majority of SPD members followed the party leadership's suggestion".

Her party quoted Merkel on Twitter Sunday, saying "I congratulate the SPD on this clear result and look forward to continuing to work together for the good of our country".

French President Macron's ambitions to reform the EU can not be achieved without the efforts from Germany and a government in Berlin highlighting European policies.

Parliament is expected to elect her to a fourth term as chancellor next week.

Josef Joffe, publisher-editor of weekly Die Zeit, questioned whether Merkel would last out the full parliamentary term to 2021, "or whether she will be forced to hand over leadership to a younger CDU generation in two years".

The make or break vote was the last hurdle in the way of Merkel's fourth term in office and essentially ends a political stalemate that has plagued the country since September's inconclusive elections. The party had initially planned to go into opposition after its worst election result since Germany became a federal republic in 1949.

European partners waiting impatiently for post-war Germany to end its longest stretch of coalition haggling heaved a sigh of relief.

The two blocs reached a 179-page coalition agreement document in early February, detailing the main issues such as policy orientations, spending and which party will name ministers in the new government.


But after Merkel's attempt to cobble together a government with two smaller parties failed, the SPD relented while promising its more than 460,000 members the final say on any coalition deal.

"Those who want to get rid of Merkel will try pull the party to right in order to recapture those voters who have defected to the nationalist, anti-immigrant AfD", he said.

Dissenting voices in the SPD also promise to keep the long-time partners on their toes.

The party, already one of Europe's largest, has seen tens of thousands of new members join this year.

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".

Ralf Stegner, current leader of the SPD in Schleswig-Holstein, told local TV Phoenix that the vote is a good government basis, and the 33 plus percent who voted against the Grand Coalition would be a reminder.

To stop the SPD from bolting, Merkel must deliver on those points in the coalition deal that are most dear to the Social Democrats: healthcare reform, and investment in education to meet the challenges of the digital age.

For the chancellor, who is under pressure within her party to rejuvenate the ranks, the clock is essentially ticking to groom her successor.

He has also advocated a sharp conservative shift in a bid to woo back voters from the AfD, which garnered almost 13 percent in the September election. Even so, she's begun preparing the CDU for her eventual departure.

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