The conservatives and Social Democrats have finally managed to settle on a coalition agreement 136 days after the federal election.
Negotiators from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU); their Bavarian partners, the Christian Social Union (CSU); and the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) have finally hashed out a contract for a new grand coalition government — probably ensuring that Angela Merkel will stay in office for a fourth tenure as German chancellor.
The SPD leadership confirmed initial reports of a deal in a group WhatsApp message to its members Wednesday: “Tired. But satisfied,” it said, adding that final details were now being added to the text of the contract, which would then be assessed by the SPD negotiating team.
“It was high time that we got the prospect of a government,” the CSU’s parliamentary leader, Alexander Dobrindt, said as he left CDU headquarters in the morning after the negotiators had worked overnight.
One of the last major hurdles was the allocation of ministerial posts, always a thorny issue and typically among the last detail to be confirmed.
Early reports suggested that the SPD would be handed the Finance Ministry — a major victory for the party — while CSU leader Horst Seehofer, one of the most conservative figures on Merkel’s side, would become interior minister. The SPD also look set to keep control of the Foreign Ministry and the Labour Ministry, with party leader Martin Schulz reportedly keen to be foreign minister. This means that Merkel’s CDU looks like it has given up key positions to keep its allies happy.
Coalition’s fate in hands of SPD members
SPD negotiators have spent the weeks leading up to Wednesday’s deal trying to convince sceptics within party ranks that they had won significant concessions from their conservative partners. SPD members will have the final say on whether to accept the coalition agreement in a vote to take place by post in the coming weeks.
Regional party officials have reported several thousand new members joining the party ahead of the vote, taking the ranks past 460,000. If the voters approve the deal — and it could well be close — Merkel could then appoint a Cabinet and the parties could sign the coalition contract. Then, if all goes to plan, Germany would have a new government by Easter.