Angela Merkel is heading for her fourth term as chancellor of Germany, after two-thirds of members of the Social Democratic party voted in favour of a grand coalition with the veteran leader’s conservative bloc.
The vote, which ends five months of political stalemate in Berlin, could help restore Germany’s leadership role in Europe at a time of mounting challenges, including a looming trade war with the US, rising tension over Brexit and French demands for an overhaul of the eurozone.
Emmanuel Macron, French president, said the result was “good news” for Europe, adding that France and Germany would work together to “push the EU project forward”.
Olaf Scholz, interim party leader and the man expected to become Germany’s next finance minister, said: “We now have clarity. The SPD will join the next federal government.”
Ms Merkel welcomed the decision in a tweet: “I congratulate the SPD for this clear result and look forward to working together for the good of our country.”
If she sees out a full term, Ms Merkel will have governed Europe’s biggest economy for 16 years. Parliament is set to hold a special session to confirm her new government on March 14.
After weeks of debate, SPD leaders struck a coalition deal with Ms Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, last month. But the party promised to submit the agreement to a vote of its 460,000-strong base, raising the prospect of a last-minute reversal that would have probably triggered another election.
Rejection of the coalition agreement would have dealt a blow both to Ms Merkel and the SPD, which had strong reasons to fear another ballot. Recent surveys gave the SPD only 16 per cent of the vote, more than four points below the party’s disastrous showing at last year’s inconclusive general election.
Both CDU/CSU and the SPD suffered heavy losses in the September ballot, which saw the far-right Alternative for Germany emerge as the third-strongest party in the Bundestag.
Yesterday’s result will be seen as a vote of confidence in the new SPD leadership around Andrea Nahles, the head of the SPD parliamentary group who is set to take over as party chief next month.