Angela Merkel finally agrees ‘grand coalition’ deal
What does German political settlement mean for the rest of Europe?
After months of political deadlock, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has finally agreed a coalition deal with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), an agreement which would see the rightwing populist Alternative fur Deutschland become the main opposition party.
The breakthrough promises to end a prolonged period of uncertainty in Germany, paving the way for a renewed “grand coalition” between the SPD and conservative CDU/CSU alliance, which would enable Merkel to stay on as leader for a fourth term.
The SPD has managed to secure the finance, foreign and labour ministries as part of the deal, “a significant feat for the leader, Martin Schulz”, who is set to land the job of foreign minister, says The Guardian.
The deal follows a month of frantic, and at times acrimonious, negotiations between the SPD and Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Among the most contentious issues were workers’ rights, healthcare, the future of Europe, the Eurozone and, most divisively, immigration.
CNN says the agreement “represents a U-turn by the SPD, which had originally said it would rather rebuild itself in opposition than prop up another Merkel administration, after suffering its worst election result since World War II”.
“Handing Germany’s centre-left control of finance, foreign and labour policy would have a big impact on the rest of the world, particularly Europe” and make Germany “more likely to go along with French President Macron’s ambitious plans for EU reform, by allowing more German support for struggling eurozone economies,” says the BBC’s Damien McGuinness.
The deal still has to be ratified by the SPD’s sceptical 460,000-strong membership and The New York Times says the vote is “too close to call”. But “an agreement which looks like a win for the SPD will increase the likelihood that they will vote yes”, says McGuiness.
In a sign of how the deal is seen in Germany, Reuters quotes Julian Reichelt, editor of the country’s biggest selling paper, Bild. He suggested the SPD had got the better end of the deal, tweeting: “This is the first SPD government led by a CDU chancellor.”
More of a problem for both coalition partners is the widespread opposition to the deal from German voters at large. A recent poll from public broadcaster ARD showed that 52% of respondents did not think another grand coalition was a good idea.
It could still be that SPD members reject the proposals, leading the way for fresh elections. If Merkel does hang on for another term, there could be dire long-term consequences for both her party and the Social Democrats - and her last term might usher in a more extreme alternative.