Merkel's CDU approves coalition deal

BERLIN • German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party has overwhelmingly approved a coalition deal, bringing the conservative leader a step closer to a fourth term at the helm of Europe's biggest economy.

Only 27 of 975 delegates present at the Christian Democratic Union's (CDU) party congress voted against the partnership with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) yesterday. The plan still needs the approval of the SPD's rank-and-file, with the result to be announced on Sunday.

The CDU conference in Berlin followed Dr Merkel's announcement last Sunday of her picks for a new, younger Cabinet intended to rejuvenate the party and end disagreements over how to tackle the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany. She installed a centrist ally in her own mould, Mrs Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, in the party leadership and elevated a conservative critic to the Cabinet in a concession to placate critics in her own ranks.

Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer was yesterday approved by the CDU as its new secretary-general.

Addressing CDU delegates yesterday, Dr Merkel acknowledged the national election result five months ago was "disappointing" to many. But hewing to her centrist course, she pledged that a new government with the SPD will steer Germany through a difficult global environment over the next four years.

"We'll succeed in positioning our party for the future to take on the task that we've enthusiastically undertaken for the past seven decades - namely, assuming responsibility for this country," said Dr Merkel.

In an effort to reassert control amid criticism from the CDU's right flank, Dr Merkel pledged to stand by key party stances such as not raising taxes and not taking on new debt. She said on Sunday she would nominate Mr Jens Spahn, flag bearer for the party's right wing, as health minister in a new government.

Dr Merkel has had to defend herself against criticism after the SPD secured the finance and foreign ministries in the next government, the result of marathon talks this month.

Some CDU delegates expressed concern. Mr Eugen Adler, representing Baden-Wuerttemberg state, said the party "now has the profile of a worn-down tyre". "For that, you carry responsibility, Madame Chancellor," he said, adding Dr Merkel let herself be "blackmailed" by the SPD.

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2018, with the headline 'Merkel's CDU approves coalition deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe