Berlin — Germany's chancellor will get a fourth term after her junior partners, the SPD, voted for a coalition deal. The new government could be in place in less than two weeks' time.
More than five months after Germans went to polls in the September 24 national election, Germany will be getting a new government. The final hurdle was cleared when the Social Democratic Party (SPD) rank-and-file sanctioned the coalition deal party leaders had negotiated with Merkel's conservatives.
Sixty-six percent of party members who voted supported a continuation of the grand coalition, while 34 percent opposed it.
The results of a mail-in ballot among more than 450,000 SPD members were announced at party headquarters in Berlin on Sunday morning.
"This wasn't an easy decision for the SPD," said acting party chairman Olaf Scholz. "In the discussion (about the deal), we've come closer together. That gives us the strength for the process of renewal we are embarking upon."
The coalition agreement can now be signed, and the Bundestag will elect Merkel chancellor of Germany for the 19th legislative period. It's thought the vote will take place on March 14. It will be the third grand coalition in Merkel's 13 years as German leader.
Former SPD chairman Martin Schulz was forced to resign after he flip-flopped on the issue of the grand coalition. Social Democratic leaders were persuaded to conclude another deal after winning key concessions from Merkel and the conservatives, including control of Germany's powerful Finance Ministry.
Conservatives have already named their ministers in the new government, while Social Democrats are expected to announce their picks for the party's six cabinet positions this week. Scholz didn't comment about who would be filling the six ministerial positions, but he did say that the SPD team would consist of three men and three women and a mixture of familiar and new faces.
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 Kuehnert.
Ahead of the vote, Kuehnert repeatedly promised that he and other nay-sayers would respect the result of the members' vote and would work with the party leadership if the rank-and-file decided to sanction a grand coalition.
The party leadership has said that Kühnert should play a greater role in the SPD in future and said that they were aware that many Social Democrats were unhappy about the direction of the party.
"We have under stood the warning contained within the vote that we need to reform the party," said deputy party chairman Ralf Stegner.