German events attain coalition gov't deal after lengthy talks

German events attain coalition gov't deal after lengthy talks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats inched closer towards a coalition agreement Monday, raising hopes of an end to months of political gridlock in Europe's top economy.

The Social Democratic Party (SPD), which had been reluctant to enter a new coalition with conservatives, gained six ministerial posts, including the foreign, justice, finance, and labor ministries.

However, the SPD's 464,000 members will be asked to ratify the deal, and could yet reject it in a postal vote whose result is due to be announced on 2 March.

The Social Democrats (SPD), burnt from four years as junior partners in the last government, came to the table with much more leverage this time, as Merkel was out of options.

The SPD initially vowed to rebuild in opposition before changing course and negotiating with Merkel, a U-turn that has divided the party, with its youth wing particularly vocal in opposition to another "grand coalition".

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"With this coalition agreement, Germany will take an active and leading role in the European Union again", he said, adding that the government will be prepared to commit more funds into the EU budget.

Deutche Welle reports: "Early reports suggested that the SPD would be handed the Finance Ministry - a major gain for the Social Democrats - while CSU leader Horst Seehofer, one of the most conservative figures on Merkel's side, would become Interior Minister".

"She had to give away a lot of goodies to make sure it happened", said Leopold Traugott a policy analyst for the Open Europe thinktank. In neighboring Austria, years of right-left coalitions finally led last year to the election of a new government including the far right.

SPD chief Martin Schulz said there was "good reason to believe that we'll reach the end today".

If the deal is not approved by the 460,000-plus SPD members, Merkel would need to either pursue a minority government dependent on opposition votes to pass legislation - or to return to the ballot for an election.

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The 177-page coalition agreement was concluded on Wednesday morning after a night of discussions on the final sticking point, job contracts and doctors pay.

Healthcare and labour policy are crucial for the SPD as it tries to convince its 443,000 members - many of whom oppose forming another awkward partnership with Merkel after their party suffered its worst postwar result in September's election. Refugee arrivals will be capped at an annual range of 180,000 to 220,000 and family-reunification immigration will be limited to 1,000 a month. A reluctant "yes" is more likely than not, but a sceptical SPD could yet surprise.

The battle between supporters and opponents of a new "grand coalition" has been hard-fought, and at times emotional.

A recent Insa poll found that support for the CDU/CSU had fallen from 33 to 30.5 per cent, while the SPD slipped from September's historic low of 20.5 per cent to 17 per cent.

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