Merkel secures fourth term in government as SPD backs coalition deal

Germany’s Social Democratic party (SPD) have agreed to form another coalition government with the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), ending five months of political deadlock

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set for her fourth term in power after Germany’s Social Democratic party (SPD) agreed to form another “grand coalition” government with the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

The vote by 464,000 rank-and-file members ends five months of political deadlock since September's election, the longest the country has been without a government in its postwar history.

Merkel, who has been in power for 12 years, congratulated the SPD.

On her party's Twitter feed, she said she "looks forward to working together again for the benefit of our country".

SPD voters approved continuing the coalition with 66% in favour. The party leadership had been concerned younger voters might veto a deal. Vote counting went on through the night at the party headquarters in Berlin.

Interim SPD leader Olaf Scholz declared: "Now we have clarity. The SPD will enter the next government".

Now, with both Merkel’s party and the SPD facing internal calls for a programmatic reboot and the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) now the biggest opposition party in parliament, the new government’s stability will likely be tested.

A Young Socialists youth wing led by Kevin Kühnert, an energetic 28-year-old, put together an effective campaign that encouraged members to reject the deal that the party’s senior leadership had agreed with Merkel’s CDU.

Watching the announcement of the membership vote result on Sunday, Kühnert expressed his disappointment but indicated that he could continue to play an active role in the debate over the German left’s future.

“Disappointment undoubtedly prevails among many Young Socialists and myself,” he said, adding that the SPD now had to rise to the difficult challenge of renewing its identity while in government. “We will keep a close eye on the government – on both of its sides.”

The SPD suffered its worst ever election result and many blamed their coalition with Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) for that poor performance.

Merkel, who also did badly, losing 65 seats, had tried and failed to form an alliance with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens.

She was forced to pay a higher price for continuing the existing coalition - the new finance minister will be a Social Democrat.

The SPD will now decide who will fill the six ministerial roles it is entitled to before Merkel's expected election by parliament on 14 March.

Martin Schulz, the former high-profile SPD chairman, had put himself forward as a possible foreign minister, but dropped the plan amid internal party squabbles over who should fill the post.