Angela Merkel is set to lead Germany for a fourth term after she and her political party, the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), were once again able to form a governing coalition with the country’s second-largest party, the center-left Social Democrats (SPD). The SPD’s vote to join forces with the CDU on Sunday ended almost six months of political deadlock after Merkel’s party fared more poorly than expected in September’s election. As a result, the SPD discontinued its coalition with the CDU, denying the centrist Merkel the majority she needed to form a government.
Contentious negotiations between the country’s political parties dragged on fruitlessly for months, while Germany’s allies looked on nervously. Following the rise of Donald Trump in the U.S., along with the political chaos caused by the Brexit vote in the U.K., many now see Merkel as the de facto leader of the free world, particularly at a time when far-right nationalists are rising across Europe.
“It’s good news for Europe,” French president Emmanuel Macron said in celebration of the vote on Sunday.
The CDU originally tried to form a coalition with two other parties, but those talks collapsed in November, leaving the SPD as its only possible partner. The SPD, however was itself divided over whether to work with Merkel again, with the younger, more-radical wing of the party opposed to it. Without a coalition to form a government, the impasse could have led to new elections.
Instead, two thirds of SPD members voted to reconstitute the two parties’ “Grand Coalition” on Sunday, though the “Reluctant Coalition” might be a better name at this point. The swing toward working together was the result of a deal which granted the SPD control of Germany’s finance, foreign, and labor ministries in exchange for agreeing to limits on the number of migrants who will be allowed into the country. Immigration has been a particularly turbulent political issue in Germany, and the country’s far-right nationalist party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), was able to win 13 percent of the vote in September — as well as seats for a nationalist party in parliament for the first time. The anti-immigration AfD is now the leading opposition party in the country, and continues to gain support in polls.
Germany’s parliament is expected to elect Merkel to her fourth term on March 14. She has led Germany for 12 years, and by the end of this new term, she will be tied with Helmut Kohl for the longest tenure as Germany’s chancellor. The Wall Street Journal reports that advisers close to Merkel say she intends for this term to be her last.