Weakened Merkel has work cut out to make coalition last

Glen Norman
March 6, 2018

The parties have a few more days left to get their affairs in order and make final selections of key cabinet members before signing the coalition agreement on March 14, and as a result, electing Angela Merkel chancellor of Germany for a fourth and most likely final term in office.

Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) have bought Chancellor Angela Merkel time with their vote to join her conservatives in another coalition, but she risks losing her long grip on power if she fails to balance the awkward allies' conflicting demands.

Both Merkel's conservatives and the SPD are under pressure to appear distinctive to voters in a coalition borne out of necessity rather than choice, making it hard for Merkel to balance conflicting demands.

Ralph Brinkhaus, deputy leader of the conservatives in parliament, said conservatives would insist on averting new government debt, and planned to examine any European spending plans very carefully.

Merkel walks in to give a statement prior to a CDU leadership meeting at the party headquarters in Berlin.

SPD leaders, who reversed a decision to go into opposition and are under pressure to rejuvenate their party after suffering their worst result in September's election since Germany became a federal republic in 1949, have vowed to fight the conservatives on major issues.

Sunday's SPD vote result brought relief to German businesses and European capitals, which believe the euro zone would benefit from Merkel being able to partner with France on President Emmanuel Macron's ambitious plans to reform the single currency bloc.

The newspaper Die Welt reported on Saturday that SPD member and Bundestag Vice President Thomas Opperman said the SPD should be more self-confident, cheeky and ready for conflict in the next coalition government.

Noting that it would be the biggest opposition party now that the SPD has joined the government, the AfD's parliamentary group leader Alice Weidel promised that "the bill will come at the latest in 2021".

After talks between the FDP (liberal Free Democratic Party) and the CDU, the Green Party disbanded in November, which meant renewing the Grand Coalition (GroKo) was the only solution left for a multiparty. In the end, though, two-thirds of its 464,000 members voted in favor of the coalition deal.

Her weakness on the refugee issue has forced the chancellor to name Jens Spahn, her main critic within the conservative bloc, as health minister in the new government. After the second Grand Coalition between 2013 and 2017 as a junior coalition partner, the share fell to 20.5 percent in September elections.

Merkel also appreciates the importance of a future government for Europe.

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