After a grueling all-night negotiating session, Germany’s two leading parties reached agreement Wednesday to once again form a governing coalition, after inconclusive elections in September left the country mired in political gridlock. The four months of wrangling and repeated failures to come up with a coalition have weakened Germany, and particularly Chancellor Angela Merkel, at a time when Europe is seeking a strong leader. The talks between Merkel’s bloc — an alliance of the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union — and the Social Democrats (SPD) extended past a self-imposed Sunday deadline and a two-day grace period into Wednesday morning, when party leaders finally overcame differences on key issues such as health care and labor policy.
One last hurdle remains, however: The Social Democrats have insisted on a partywide vote on the final deal, and the party’s youth wing has been actively recruiting members to vote against it.
An approval vote by party members is not unprecedented in Germany, but it is not standard practice, either, said political scientist Thorsten Faas of the Free University in Berlin. In 2013, the SPD membership was also allowed to vote on the coalition with Merkel’s conservatives.