Germany’s government has been on hold since last September’s elections left the country without a majority leadership, nor two or more parties willing to enter into a coalition with the other, but now after months of painstaking negotiations, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
After originally declaring they would not enter into another grand coalition with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU), the Social Democratic Party (SPD) had a change of heart in the end and announced the parties had finally come to an acceptable deal on Wednesday. This came after several weeks of negotiations that seemed to have no end in sight.
Going into the talks, SPD leaders had the upper hand as previous coalition negotiations between the CDU/CSU, Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Green Party failed to take shape. Without the support of the SPD, Germany would be looking at new elections that could rob Merkel of her fourth term as Germany’s chancellor.
The SPD’s original resistance stemmed from one of the worst election results in the party’s history and forming another grand coalition with Merkel at the top threatened to make things worse in the future. So it is no surprise that any agreement reached between the parties would have to heavily favor SPD policies.
With Wednesday’s coalition deal, the SPD will be given direct control over the Finance Ministry, which is a major victory for the party, as well as keeping control of the Labor Ministry and Foreign Ministry. Party leader Martin Schulz will reportedly take over as the foreign minister despite an earlier pledge that we would never take a cabinet position in Merkel’s government.
CSU leader Horst Seehofer, known for his strong conservative leanings, will take the reigns of the Interior Ministry, leaving Merkel’s CDU with control of just the Justice and Defense Ministries.
While the party leaders have settled on the terms for a coalition, there is one last hurdle they must face before the deal ushers in the new government. The fate of the agreement lies in the hands of SPD party members who will now vote on whether or not they approve the deal. Roughly 460,000 members will have a say and with prior contentions still going strong, mixed with a continued trend in poor poll numbers for the SPD, it is expected to be a very close vote.
If SPD members do approve the current coalition deal in the next few weeks, Germany could have its new government finally up and running by April.