Merkel vows swift return to government work to boost Europe

It is not the result she would have wanted when she began her election campaign past year - she had to surrender control of key government departments including the powerful finance ministry to get a deal.

Wary of ceding further ground to the Islamophobic protest party, Merkel's conservatives and the SPD have recognised that "more of the same" will not suffice.

Leader Angela Merkel has led Europe's largest economy since 2005, and is now due to start her fourth term in a coalition with Germany's Social Democratic Party following a period of uncertainty, which has been the longest the country has been without a government in its entire post-war history.

When the vote was counted on Sunday, 66.02-percent of the more than 450,000 SPD voting members approved the grand coalition, leaving only 33.98-percent opposed.

In power since 2005, she has led Germany and the European Union through the financial and debt crises, but her waning authority at home could complicate efforts to deepen integration in the euro zone. Now the parliament consists of lawmakers from seven political parties.

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Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) allies, as well as the SPD, are all still bruised after suffering from the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in last year's election.

Sixty-six percent of the 464,000 rank-and-file members of the Social Democrats party on Saturday agreed to form a coalition.

Merkel, who has been in power for 12 years, posted on Facebook "I congratulate the spd on this clear result and look forward to further cooperation for the good of our country".

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.

"France and Germany will work together in the coming weeks to develop new initiatives and advance the European project", he added. The agreement was reached more than five months after Merkel's CDU/CSU party alliance won the majority in general elections.

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"We now have clarity", the acting SPD leader, Olaf Scholz, said. 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. In order for the SPD to agree on entering into a new coalition with the CDU/CSU, many concessions had to be made in their favor.

"If the Social Democrats continue to fall in the polls, then the point will come at some stage when they say "we must get out of the government", said Nils Diederich, professor at the Free University of Berlin. To quell the rumblings in her own party, Ms Merkel has brought in one of her biggest CDU rivals, Jens Spahn, as health minister.

Spahn, 37, wants to make the AfD "superfluous" by winning back voters on the right.

Merkel could be sworn in as chancellor by mid-March.

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  • Ryan Wade