Merkel wins her party backing for coalition deal
Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday overwhelmingly won the blessing of her conservative party for a hard-fought coalition deal, a relief for the veteran leader who has been weakened by party infighting over five months of political impasse in Germany.
At a congress of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the party she has led for nearly 18 years, delegates voted in favor of a government pact hammered out with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).
The strong approval from the CDU gives a boost to the chancellor, who suffered a major setback when the party recorded its worst score since the 1950s in September’s general election.
The congress was also about the party’s future, with Merkel moving to quell a right-wing rebellion as she vowed to “set the party on course towards renewal.”
In a clear sign that attention had turned to the question of succession, the biggest applause of the day was also reserved for the conservatives’ newly appointed general secretary, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
Dubbed AKK or “mini-Merkel” by German media, the premier of Germany’s tiny Saarland state was tapped by Merkel last week to take over as CDU general secretary, fuelling speculation the veteran chancellor is lining up her successor.
A staunch Catholic who despite her centrist stance has also advocated a tougher line on migration, Kramp-Karrenbauer was seen as a wise choice to soothe internal discontent.
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 likely final term.
She had to pay a high price to coax the reluctant SPD back into another loveless “grand coalition,” the alliance 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.
Opponents of Merkel’s 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 1 million asylum seekers since 2015.
To tamp down the rumblings, Merkel moved on Sunday to co-opt one of her most outspoken CDU critics, Jens Spahn, by bringing him into her next cabinet as health minister.