Merkel can finally get to work after SPD agrees to coalition
The way was finally cleared for Angela Merkel to form a new government in Germany yesterday as the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) voted in favour of a coalition deal.
A postal vote of the SPD's 463,000 members voted to keep Ms Merkel in power by a healthy margin, with 66pc in favour and only 34pc against.
The decision brings an end to months of political crisis in Germany. The vote was the last hurdle standing in Ms Merkel's way, and she will now be able to defy her critics and begin a fourth term as chancellor.
"We now have clarity," the acting SPD leader, Olaf Scholz, said. "The SPD will enter the government." Mr Scholz is expected to become finance minister and vice-chancellor in the new government.
"Now to work," tweeted Peter Altmaier of Ms Merkel's Christian Democrat party (CDU), who is set to become economy minister.
Ms Merkel will start what is almost certainly her final term as chancellor weakened. She suffered heavy losses in September's election and it took her five months to put together a new coalition - the longest in post-war German history.
But last week she successfully fought off an incipient rebellion in her own party by bringing a younger generation into her cabinet and paving the way for her eventual succession.
With yesterday's decision she has also seen off a considerably bigger grassroots rebellion within the SPD and can now count on the party's support.
It is not the result she would have wanted when she began her election campaign last year - she had to surrender control of key government departments including the powerful finance ministry to get a deal.
But she avoided the threat of early elections or trying to form a minority government.
The direction of her new government remains to be seen. With the SPD in control of the finance, foreign and employment ministries, it is likely to be different from her previous administrations.
There will be fewer friendly faces around the table when she holds her first cabinet meeting. To quell the rumblings in her own party, Ms Merkel has brought in one of her biggest CDU rivals, Jens Spahn, as health minister.
Horst Seehofer, the head of her Bavarian sister party and sternest critic of her "open-door" refugee policy will be in charge of the migrant issue as interior minister.
Her main coalition partner remains in disarray. The decision whether to join a new coalition has riven the SPD down the middle and claimed the scalp of its former leader, Martin Schulz, who negotiated the coalition deal only to be forced out.
Mr Scholz is interim leader but has said he will not stand for the full-time leadership and will focus on government instead. Andrea Nahles, a former employment minister, is now favourite to take over after she successfully led the Yes campaign in the coalition vote.
Ms Merkel will be formally voted in on March 14, but is expected to begin forming a new government immediately. (© Daily Telegraph, London)