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Scepticism and relief for Germany's shotgun coalition

apr-news-Angela-Merkel / Scepticism and relief for Germany's shotgun coalition
Thursday, 8 February 2018

Scepticism and relief for Germany's shotgun coalition

REUTERS  - Angela Merkel’s conservatives and their Social Democrat (SPD) partners faced a chorus of scepticism on Thursday as allies and opponents alike criticized a loveless coalition deal that some said showed the German chancellor’s time was coming to an end.

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The shotgun deal, reached in record time after Merkel earlier failed to form a coalition with two smaller parties, faces its first test when the SPD’s restive membership vote next month on whether to ratify a deal many never wanted.

But Merkel’s camp was also forced to defend a deal that sees the conservatives cede the crucial finance minister post in exchange for a fourth term in office for the woman who has dominated European politics for the past 12 years.

Both camps had to make major sacrifices to secure a deal. The agreement promises an unusual half-time review after two years, when the parties will reassess the coalition - a possible opportunity for Merkel finally to step down.

This government could be captioned ‘Won’t last long’,” wrote Kurt Kister, editor of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

Even that may prove optimistic if SPD leader Martin Schulz fails to persuade the party’s 464,000 members to ratify the deal in a postal ballot, the results of which will be announced on March 4.

The center-left party saw its previous four years in “grand coalition” with the conservatives rewarded with its worst poll result in decades in September’s national election, and the slide continues.

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The SPD was on 18 percent in a GMS poll on Thursday, the lowest ever, only four points ahead of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). Together, the two grand coalition parties barely scored 50 percent.

Opponents of the deal say Schulz’s team failed to set a left-wing stamp on the program, which continues to promise the budget discipline that has been the hallmark of Merkel’s three governments. It is unclear if they will be persuaded by his response that the SPD will control top ministries, including foreign affairs and finance.

Paradoxically, the political right’s dismay could win over more reluctant SPD members. 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.”

In a reminder of how indispensable Berlin has become to European affairs, the ill-temper in Germany was not matched in other capitals, where news that an end was in sight to four months of uncertainty was greeted with relief.

Germany’s coalition agreement this week opens the way for convergence with France on reform of the euro zone, said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.

There’s things in the coalition agreement that are very positive,” he told a capital markets conference in Paris.

Senior figures in both camps were happy to acknowledge that the coalition, born of painful necessity, was nobody’s first choice. And some had little time for the critics.

I can’t take this Merkel bashing and talk of selling out any more,” said Kai Whittaker, a lawmaker for her Christian Democrats (CDU). “This self-pitying rolling in the mud reminds me of a spoiled child stamping in anger.