More than five months after Germans went to polls at the 24 September 2017 national election, Germany will finally be getting a new government. The final hurdle was cleared when the Social Democratic Party (SPD) members approved the coalition deal party leaders had negotiated with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU.
Sixty-six percent of party members who voted supported a continuation of the grand coalition, while 34 percent opposed it – a clearer margin than many in the party had expected.
More than 450,000 SPD members were called upon to cast their votes a mail-in ballot, and the outcome was announced at the centre-left party headquarters in Berlin on Sunday morning.
The coalition agreement can now be signed, and the Bundestag will elect Merkel chancellor of Germany for the 19th legislative period. The vote will take place on March 14. It will be the third grand coalition in Merkel’s 13 years as German leader, but it only came about after efforts to form a coalition with the Greens and centre-right Free Democrats (FDP) failed.
Social Democrats now need to heal old wounds
The decision about whether to form a new partnership with the conservatives divided Social Democrats, many of whom blame the SPD’s participation in grand coalitions for the party’s slide to historic lows in opinion polls. The yes campaign in the members’ vote was led by designated party chairwoman Andrea Nahles and acting party chairman Olaf Scholz, while the no camp was spearheaded by the head of the SPD’s youth wing, Kevin Kühnert.
Conservatives breathe sigh of relief
Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) sanctioned the coalition agreement last week at a party conference. And the chancellor was quick to express her pleasure at Sunday’s announcement.
“I congratulate the SPD on this clear result and look forward to further cooperation for the welfare of our country,” the CDU tweeted in Markel’s name.
Opposition parties lob scorn via social media
The far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) mocked the SPD’s decision, predicting that the Social Democrats’ decline would continue when Germany holds its next national election.
The other parties were more respectful but hardly any more positive.
“The SPD voted as expected,” tweeted FDP General Secretary Nicola Beer. “They were more afraid of new elections than of being further marginalized in another Merkel coalition. Merkel’s worries are over. She stays in the Chancellery, but Germany is only moving sideways.”
Left Party co-chairwoman Katja Kipping wrote that the SPD and the conservatives were returning to the seats of power “weakened and apathetically.”
Green party co-chairwoman Annalena Baerbock commented: “It’s good that the political impasse is finally over. We’ll have to fill the holes regarding the climate, care for senior and child poverty from the parliament.”