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Merkel under fire over coalition deal
February 09, 2018
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BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel faced criticism from within the ranks of her own conservatives on Thursday for making concessions to her centre-left Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners to seal a governing alliance a day earlier.

Merkel, who leads the Christian Democrats (CDU), ceded the powerful finance ministry to the SPD in a coalition deal finally agreed on Wednesday, more than four months after a national election last September in which both blocs lost support.

“I think the cabinet formation, as it is now, is a political mistake,” said Christian von Stetten, a CDU lawmaker who represents business interests, told broadcaster ARD, adding that this applied in particular to giving up the finance portfolio.

Handing over the finance ministry shows the high price the conservatives had to pay to renew the ‘grand coalition’ with the SPD that has governed Germany since 2013, and secure Merkel’s fourth term in office.

Mass-selling daily Bild said Merkel had sold out.

“Chancellor at any price,” Bild wrote on its front page. “Merkel gifts the SPD the government.” Under the coalition agreement, the SPD will retain control of the foreign, justice and labour ministries among others.

Merkel ally Julia Kloeckner was forced to defend the coalition agreement.

“We have kept our key promises from the election campaign,” she told broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk. “For families, there is significantly more support. We will keep the finances stable. There will be no new debts, but also no tax increases.” Meanwhile, Andrea Nahles, the plain-speaking 47-year-old leader of the Social Democrats in Germany’s parliament, is set to be given the task of re-energising a 154-year-old party that has alienated much of its traditional voter base — workers and young people.

The party may have agreed reluctantly to go into coalition as junior partner to Merkel’s conservatives — pending a members’ ballot — but it would have preferred to take time in opposition to recover from September’s election drubbing.

Martin Schulz is stepping aside as leader after his campaign to become chancellor earned the SPD its worst result in the postwar era. If its leadership follow his advice, Nahles will become the party’s first female chairwoman.

A former labour minister described by the mass-circulation daily Bild as “the only real guy in the SPD”, Nahles is credited with marshalling support in her party for a renewal of the ‘grand coalition’ with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives that has governed Germany since 2013.

Now she will be leading the charge to win approval of the terms of the deal from the party’s 464,000 members, many of whom remain deeply sceptical about another tie-up with Merkel.

She will face strong opposition from 28-year-old Kevin Kuehnert, the formidable leader of the SPD’s more radical youth wing — a job she held in the 1990s. Kuehnert has railed against the coalition for weeks, and on Wednesday accused Schulz of trying to hijack debate about the substance of the agreement with his move on Nahles.

Schulz will step down after the members’ vote, and on Wednesday recommended members back Nahles for party leader at a subsequent congress.

Nahles emerged as Schulz’s heir apparent last month after he made a lacklustre 57-minute speech in which he boasted about having a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron as he urged SPD delegates to agree to let coalition talks proceed. When members of the Jusos took the podium and argued passionately against a coalition, the momentum in the congress hall seemed to be swinging their way.


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