Merkel, SPD finally clinch coalition deal
Painful compromises guaranteed her fourth mandate
9 February, 2018
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) hammered out a coalition deal on 7 January, ending more than four months of political uncertainty in Europe's biggest economy. Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), her Bavarian-based sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the SPD managed to overcome major stumbling blocks to an agreement after a marathon 24 hours of talks.
“Tired. But satisfied. The contract is there! Finally,” the SPD said in a WhatsApp message.
The coalition talks had been extended twice from last Sunday deadline when agreement could not be reached over health insurance and labour market issues and the distribution of the ministerial portfolios.
To help secure the backing of SPD members for teaming up with Merkel for her fourth term in power, the party has grabbed the three top posts in the chancellor's new cabinet - the Finance Ministry, the Foreign Office and the big-budget Labour and Social Affairs portfolio. The centre-left party will also hold onto the justice, family and environment ministries, all of which they held in the last government. The SPD mayor of the northern city of Hamburg, Olaf Scholz, is to be appointed to the powerful job of finance minister, while SPD leader Martin Schulz is to become foreign minister, despite earlier categorically ruling out accepting a portfolio in Merkel's cabinet.
A former president of the European Parliament, 62-year-old Schulz is now expected to help shape Germany's contribution to the far-reaching EU reform drive called for by French President Emmanuel Macron. But polls show a majority of Germans are against Schulz accepting a portfolio in the new government after he led the SPD to a historic defeat in the September national election and initially rejected both forming a new coalition with Merkel and accepting a post in her cabinet.
The CSU, meanwhile, have been given a role at the Interior Ministry which appears to be something of a novelty as it will include responsibility for Heimat (home) - that rather untranslatable German word is a nod to conservatism and its current obsession with “German values”. CSU leader Horst Seehofer is coming to Berlin to take on the role of interior minister. At the end of last year, it seemed like his career was over, but he appears to have rescued it to some degree. The Bavarian party have also held onto the Transport and Development Ministries. In this government, the Transport Ministry will include the competency of digital infrastructure.
The only question is - with so many key ministries going to the other parties - what have the CDU kept for themselves? One assumes they have kept defence, but there is not much going, other than that.