Weakened Merkel has her work cut out to make coalition last

Weakened Merkel has her work cut out to make coalition last

Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) voted to join Chancellor Angela Merkel's next government, clearing the way to her fourth term and ending months of political uncertainty in Europe's largest economy. But it is surely the beginning of the end.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germans can breathe a sigh of relief now that the center-left Social Democrats have voted to enter a coalition with Merkel's conservatives.

But close aides to Ms. Merkel say this term, .

The challenges are piling up for the chancellor, with Europe looking to her for leadership on a host of economic and security issues.

The AfD, which would be the biggest opposition party in Germany as the SPD joins the government, vowed to go after Merkel's CDU over its "continuation of the immigration policy without imposing a limit".

Germany is set to have an official government again after nearly six months of uncertainty.

Mrs Merkel praised the SPD's decision and said she looked forward to working with them in coalition.

Merkel's survival drew cheers from her allies at home and overseas, with French President Emmanuel Macron declaring it "good news for Europe".

In power since 2005, Merkel steered the European bloc through the financial crisis and debt crisis, but her authority was dented by her 2015 decision to open Germany's borders to migrants, resulting in an influx of more than a million people.

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Two in three of the SPD's rank-and-file voting in a make-or-break referendum backed a new partnership with Merkel's conservatives, heralding an end to the political stalemate that has plagued Europe's biggest economy since inconclusive elections in September previous year.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire wrote on Twitter that he had spoken to Mr Scholz and acting finance minister Peter Altmaier, a Merkel ally, by telephone on Sunday morning to discuss giving the euro zone new impetus after the SPD's vote, adding: "Resolved to work closely together!"

Parliament is expected to re-elect Mrs Merkel as Chancellor next week.

"In 2021 at the latest, they'll pay the price", AfD tweeted in a message that contained cartoons of Nahles and Merkel and the caption "four more nightmare years for Germany". The radical youth wing had opposed the coalition.

Former SPD Chairman Martin Schulz was forced to resign when he initially ruled out another grand coalition.

Dietmar Woidke, a member of Social Democrats' national executive, said the new government can't simply cite its strong economic record but needs to address the everyday concerns of voters that contributed to the rise of the AfD, especially in the east of the country. Turn-out in the poll was over 78 percent.

"While the United States are starting a trade war and China is challenging our industrial leadership, we have been unnecessarily self-absorbed", engineering trade union VDMA's managing director Thilo Brodtmann said.

With her conservatives, they thrashed out a coalition agreement which SPD leaders hailed for its commitments to strengthening the European Union and giving them key government roles. Fewer Social Democrats approved the deal this time round than in 2013, when 76 per cent of members backed a government with Merkel.

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