By Ali Alemi

Merkel’s mojo waning in Germany

February 14, 2018

TEHRAN - The German Chancellor has conceded much to its rival party in the formation of a coalition government with the Social Democratic Party. Undoubtedly, few will remember Merkel as a powerful politician in Germany and Europe she once was, and there have been many reports on this issue.

The Guardian's report on Merkel is one of them:
Angela Merkel has taken a crucial step towards ending a four-month period of political uncertainty by reaching a coalition agreement with the center-left Social Democrats – but at the cost of giving the party a greater role in government. Following a marathon of all-night deal making sessions and several missed deadlines, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union on Wednesday agreed on the terms of a fresh deal with the SPD, whose supporters will now get a final say on the agreement through a membership vote.

But the prize of a renewed “grand coalition” is likely to come at the cost of ceding key ministries to her junior coalition partner, exposing the German chancellor to criticism from her own party. The SPD leader, Martin Schulz, can be optimistic about rallying support for a new term in government after securing three influential trophy ministries. The draft coalition deal foresees the center-left party filling the finance, foreign and labour ministries, as well as the roles for family, justice and the environment.

Schulz, who had ruled out playing a role in a Merkel government in the immediate aftermath of last year’s elections, is reportedly planning to hand his party leadership to the former labour minister Andrea Nahles and to take charge of the foreign ministry himself. The SPD mayor of Hamburg, Olaf Scholz, seen as a pragmatic centrist from the party’s liberal wing, is set to succeed the powerful Wolfgang Schنuble in the finance ministry, a key role for the future direction of the eurozone.

The draft coalition agreement hints at a departure from Schنuble’s hawkish focus on balanced budgets, promising a “solidaristic sharing of responsibilities” and a preparedness to increase German contributions to the EU budget. At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Merkel said that divvying up ministries had “not been easy” and acknowledged her party’s disgruntlement at the loss of the finance ministry.

“I’d wager that the SPD didn’t even believe it could get the finance ministry when the negotiations started,” the veteran CDU politician Wolfgang Bosbach told German media on Wednesday. “The CDU should have insisted on keeping the positions it already had.”

A boosted interior ministry with an additional focus on housing construction and life in regional areas has meanwhile reportedly been handed to Horst Seehofer of the Bavaria-based CSU, the Christian Democrats’ sister party – a consistent critic of Merkel’s policy course during the refugee crisis. Such a constellation would leave Merkel’s own party with only the roles for the economy, defence, health, education and agriculture, and no truly high-profile ministries apart from her own chancellory.
The coalition deal also complicates the question over who could eventually replace Merkel once she decides to step down. Two politicians recently mooted as potential successors, the young rightwinger Jens Spahn and the more liberal-leaning “mini-Merkel” Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, are not expected to play parts in the next government at all.

The CDU and the SPD have been in coalition talks since the first week of January after the collapse of Merkel’s attempt to form an unorthodox “Jamaica” coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats and the Green party.

Deadlocks over employment law and SPD-proposed reforms to the multi-payer health service resulted in the CDU and SPD missing several deadlines they had set themselves. As the talks ran into Wednesday morning, the chancellor cancelled an official lunchtime meeting with Italy’s Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. Once the two parties have officially presented their coalition agreement, the SPD will allow their 460,000 members a vote on whether the party should formally enter a governing coalition with Merkel’s party.

Schulz, whose party has played junior partner to Merkel’s in the government for the past four years, initially ruled out the possibility of another grand coalition under his leadership. The SPD’s leadership faces opposition from a number of groups, including its own youth wing, the Young Socialists, who believe it should reinvent itself in opposition rather than seek another term in government.

Only SPD members who joined the party before late Tuesday will be able to vote. At a special party summit in January, only a narrow majority of SPD delegates voted in favour of continuing coalition talks. At the elections in September, the SPD plunged to its worst result since the Second World War, winning just over 20 percent. And despite emerging as the strongest party, with 33 percent, the performance of Merkel’s CDU also disappointed supporters.

The Alternative für Deutschland’s role as the largest opposition party is a non-official one, but it equips the party with a number of parliamentary privileges. Migration emerged as a contentious political issue in Germany after 1.2 million people entered the country during the refugee crisis in 2015-16. The backlash against Merkel’s decision to keep open Germany’s borders resulted in a far-right party entering parliament for the first time in more than 50 years.

Also, Reuters reported that Angela Merkel on Sunday defended “painful” concessions she has made to the Social Democrats (SPD) to win a fourth term as German chancellor and said criticism among her conservatives was not a sign her authority was waning.

Asked whether she was planning to groom a successor to lead her conservatives in the next election, Merkel said she wanted a younger generation of her Christian Democrats (CDU) to fill ministerial posts in a renewed coalition with the SPD.

In an interview with the ZDF public broadcaster, she commented on the rising displeasure among conservatives over her decision to give the SPD the powerful finance ministry.

“I understand the disappointment,” said Merkel, who has led Germany for the last 12 years.

“And now we need to show that we can start with a new team,” she added. “We have six ministerial posts to fill and from my point of view, we need to ensure that not only the over-60s are considered but also younger people.”

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