Wednesday 16 January 2019

Merkel facing key vote as she fights to win fourth term

German Chancellor and party chairwoman Angela Merkelensure. Photo: Markus Schreiber/AP
German Chancellor and party chairwoman Angela Merkelensure. Photo: Markus Schreiber/AP

Madeline Chambers

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged her Christian Democrats (CDU) yesterday to approve a coalition deal with the Social Democrats (SPD), a step that would bring her closer to a fourth term.

The more formidable hurdle to ending a five-month political impasse in Europe's largest economy comes next week, however. On Sunday, results of a binding postal vote by members of the centre-left SPD will be announced and they are far less certain.

The CDU party congress follows Ms Merkel's announcement of her picks for a new, younger cabinet intended to revive the party, which has been riven by disagreements over how to respond to the Alternative for Germany (AfD) since losing votes to the far-right party in national elections in September.

The CDU's youth wing has called for the party to renew itself in the wake of its worst election result since 1949 in September, and Ms Merkel (63) stressed in her speech to delegates at yesterday's CDU meeting that younger faces were in the new team.

She asked her party to vote in favour of the deal, which is expected to go through easily, as a poll showed support for both her conservative bloc - which also includes the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) - and the SPD rising.

"We want to make our contribution to forming a stable federal government that is capable of acting," Ms Merkel said.

"The fact we're voting on a coalition treaty today five months after the election shows that we're dealing with a difficult situation that we've never faced before."

She reassured delegates that the new German government would not take out any new debt, avoid tax increases, seek to renew the European Union, ensure fast internet is available everywhere in Germany by 2025, boost research spending, create 8,000 nursing jobs and take a "zero tolerance" policy on security.

Ms Merkel said conservatives secured wins in coalition talks with the SPD, including preventing what she called the "aberration" of a single health system that the SPD had demanded to replace the current dual public-private system.

Ms Merkel disappointed many conservatives by agreeing to give the SPD the powerful finance ministry in a new government. She said it was a "painful" loss but added it was right not to let negotiations fail due to portfolios rather than substance.

She also underscored the importance of the economy ministry - which the CDU will retake after years in SPD hands.

The conference will also vote on the appointment as CDU general secretary of her close ally Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, widely seen as her preferred successor. Dubbed "mini-Merkel" by some media, the Saarland state premier (55) shares some but not all of Ms Merkel's views.

Her Catholic, western German background contrasts with Ms Merkel's Protestant, eastern roots. While socially conservative and known for opposing gay marriage, Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer is a strong supporter of the minimum wage and workers' rights.

Irish Independent

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