Germany: Parties agree deal to form government that will end Angela Merkel era

Three German parties have agreed a deal to form a new government that will end the era of the longstanding chancellor, Angela Merkel.

Olaf Scholz, of the centre-left Social Democrats, is poised to replace her and said the new government would not seek “the lowest common denominator, but the politics of big impacts”.

He emphasised the importance of a sovereign Europe, friendship with France and partnership with the United States as key cornerstones of the government’s foreign policy – continuing a long post-war tradition.

Mr Scholz said he expected members of the parties would give their blessing to the deal in the next 10 days.

The Social Democrats have been negotiating with the environmentalist Green party and the pro-business Free Democrats since narrowly winning a national election in September.

If party members approve the deal, the three-way alliance – which has never yet been tried in a national government – will replace the current “grand coalition” of the country’s traditional big parties.

The Social Democrats have served as the junior partner to Ms Merkel‘s centre-right Christian Democrats.

The 67-year-old, who did not run for a fifth term, is expected to be succeeded by Scholz, 63, who has been her finance minister and vice chancellor since 2018. She has been in power since 2005.

The three would-be governing parties have said they hope parliament will elect Mr Scholz as chancellor in the week beginning 6 December.

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But the deal first requires approval from a ballot of the Greens’ roughly 125,000-strong membership and from conventions of the other two parties.

News of the deal emerged as Ms Merkel led what was likely to be her last Cabinet meeting – where Mr Scholz presented her with a bouquet of flowers.

Negotiations over the alliance were relatively harmonious and fast compared to previous coalition talks.

But the political transition, with Ms Merkel as a lame-duck caretaker, has hampered Germany’s response to the latest rise in COVID cases.

Few details have emerged from the private talks – including how the parties will divide up the ministerial portfolios.

The alliance is considered a potentially uneasy mixture because it brings together two traditionally left-leaning parties with one, the Free Democrats, that has tended to ally with the centre-right.

A preliminary agreement last month indicated Germany would bring forward its deadline for ending the use of coal-fuelled power from 2038 to 2030, while expanding the rollout of renewable energy generation.

And at the Free Democrats’ insistence, the prospective partners have pledged not to raise taxes or loosen curbs on running up debt, making financing a central issue.

Ms Merkel’s Christian Democrats are currently preoccupied with a leadership contest over who will become their next leader and revive the party’s fortunes after it suffered its worst-ever election result.

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