German parties reach deal for government to end Merkel era
Three German parties have reached a deal to form a new government that will end the era of longtime Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to Olaf Scholz, who is poised to replace her.
Scholz, of the center-left Social Democrats, said the new government would not seek “the lowest common denominator, but the politics of big impacts.”
He stressed the importance of a sovereign Europe, friendship with France and partnership with the United States as key cornerstones of the government’s foreign policy — continuing a long post-war tradition.
Scholz said he expects that members of the parties will give their blessing to the deal in the next 10 days.
The Social Democrats have been negotiating with the environmentalist Green party and the pro-business Free Democrats since narrowly winning a national election Sept. 26.
Angela Merkel, a once-obscure scientist who claimed the global spotlight, leaves a mixed legacy as her 16-year tenure as Germany’s chancellor ends.
If party members sign off on it, the three-way alliance — which has never yet been tried in a national government — will replace the current “grand coalition” of the country’s traditional big parties. The Social Democrats have served as the junior partner to Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats.
Merkel, who didn’t run for a fifth term, is expected to be succeeded by Scholz, 63, who has been her finance minister and vice chancellor since 2018.
The three would-be governing parties have said they hope parliament will elect Scholz as chancellor in the week beginning Dec. 6. Before that can happen, the deal requires approval from a ballot of the Greens’ roughly 125,000-strong membership and from conventions of the other two parties.
News of the deal came as Merkel led what was likely to be her last Cabinet meeting. Scholz presented the 67-year-old, who has led Germany since 2005, with a bouquet of flowers.
The negotiations over the alliance were relatively harmonious and speedy compared with previous coalition talks. But the political transition, with Merkel as a lame-duck caretaker, has hampered Germany’s response to the latest rise in coronavirus cases.
Forming a new German government after the Social Democrats’ election win over departing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right bloc could take months.
Few details have emerged from the closed-doors talks, including how the parties will divide up the ministerial portfolios. The alliance is a potentially uneasy mixture because it brings together two traditionally left-leaning parties with one, the Free Democrats, that has tended to ally with the center-right.
A preliminary agreement last month indicated that Germany would bring forward its deadline for ending the use of coal-fueled power from 2038 to 2030, while expanding the rollout of renewable energy generation.
Election officials said early Monday that a count of all 299 constituencies showed the Social Democrats won 25.9% of the vote, ahead of 24.1% for the Union bloc.
At the Free Democrats’ insistence, the prospective partners said they won’t raise taxes or loosen curbs on running up debt, making financing a central issue.
Merkel’s Christian Democrats are currently preoccupied with a leadership contest over who will become their next leader and revive the party’s fortunes after it suffered its worst-ever election result.
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