Merkel close to ending coalition impasse
Chancellor Angela Merkel took a significant step toward ending Germany’s lengthy political impasse by securing a preliminary agreement to enter formal coalition talks with a centreleft party.
The deal was welcomed by Germany’s European allies.
Exhausted negotiators from Merkel’s conservative Union bloc and the centreleft Social Democrats presented their deal, which includes pledges to strengthen the EU and keep a lid on the number of migrants entering Germany, following over 24 hours of non-stop talks to cap a week of wrangling.
“We have achieved outstanding results,” said the Social Democrats’ leader, Martin Schulz. But to make a new government a reality, he must first persuade a party congress on January 21 to agree to hold formal coalition negotiations. Then, if those talks are successful, he must steer a coalition deal through a ballot of the full party membership.
If things go well, a new government could be formed by Easter, said Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union — the Bavariaonly sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.
“If we succeed, these could be four very, very good years,” Seehofer said. “I am already speaking of these years because I believe we will succeed.”
The prospective partners have governed Germany together for the past four years but Schulz, Merkel’s defeated challenger in Germany’s September 24 election, initially said after the Social Democrats crashed to a disastrous result that they would go into opposition. That decision was popular with members.
He reluctantly reconsidered after Merkel’s coalition talks with two smaller parties collapsed in November.
The conservatives also performed poorly in the election, and the three coalition parties’ support dropped by a total of nearly 14 percentage points.
“This election result was a signal to politicians that business as usual wouldn’t work and that we must show the people in this country we understand,” Seehofer said. “We made that the basis of our work.”
Seehofer’s CSU, which has taken a hard line on migration, has sought to reinforce its law-and-order profile in the face of a challenge from the Alternative for Germany party, which entered parliament for the first time in September.
Yesterday’s agreement states that the number of asylum-seekers shouldn’t exceed a range of 180,000220,000 annually. And there will be a 1,000-per-month limit on the number of relatives allowed to join migrants in Germany who have a status below full asylum.
Merkel highlighted promises to hire 15,000 more police officers and 2,000 people to strengthen the justice system.
Doreen Tracey on ‘The Mickey Mouse Club’ in the 1950s.