Merkel quells party rebellion ahead of coalition deal vote

2018-02-26 15:28
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks after a board meeting of her Christian Democratic party in Berlin. (Bernd von Jutrczenka, dpa via AP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks after a board meeting of her Christian Democratic party in Berlin. (Bernd von Jutrczenka, dpa via AP)

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Berlin - German Chancellor Angela Merkel will put a hard-fought coalition deal to a vote on Monday by her conservative party, which is expected to give its approval after she moved to quash a right-wing rebellion.

Officials from Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the party she has led for nearly 18 years and steadily moved toward the political centre, are gathering from 09:00 GMT in Berlin.

The main aim of the meeting is to give the green light to a government pact hammered out in early February with the Social Democrats (SPD) after four months of political limbo in Europe's economic powerhouse since a tricky general election.

Merkel paid a high price to break the impasse and coax the reluctant SPD back into a loveless "grand coalition", which has ruled Germany for eight of her 12 years in power.

The deal included the CDU ceding control to the Social Democrats of the powerful finance ministry, seen by conservatives as a guarantor of budgetary rigour in Germany and the eurozone.

Protracted struggle

Merkel, once the seemingly invincible leader of her party and the nation, has looked severely weakened in recent months given her protracted struggle to put together a viable coalition for her fourth and possibly final term.

Opponents of her liberal refugee policy have grown more outspoken as the country's major parties face pressure from the far-right AfD party which has railed against a mass influx of more than one million asylum seekers since 2015.

To tamp down the rumblings, Merkel moved on Sunday to co-opt one of her most outspoken CDU critics by bringing him into her next cabinet as health minister.

Jens Spahn, 37, a former deputy to hardliner Wolfgang Schaeuble at the finance ministry, has repeatedly slammed Merkel's centrist policies, particularly on immigration.

He has also advocated a sharp conservative shift in a bid to woo back voters from the AfD, which garnered nearly 13% in the September election.

Announcing the new line-up, Merkel called Spahn "a representative of the younger generation" who she was convinced would play a constructive role.

"People sometimes make critical comments - Jens Spahn is not the only one and that's okay," she said.

"Nevertheless we have the task to do something good for Germany and that's what he wants to do, just like all the other cabinet members."

Merkel filled the remaining CDU ministries with loyalists, keeping Ursula von der Leyen at the defence ministry, putting close ally Peter Altmaier on the economic affairs brief and placing Julia Kloeckner in the agriculture job.

Two relatively obscure CDU politicians, Anja Karliczek and Helge Braun, are to take the education and chief-of-staff briefs respectively, said Merkel, noting that at 63 she will be the oldest member of the government.

The cabinet picks "are future-oriented - they bring together experience with new faces in a good mix", Merkel said, but admitted it had required some "painful" choices.

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Read more on:    angela merkel  |  germany

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