German Parties Reach Coalition Deal

German Parties Reach Coalition Deal

BERLIN (AP) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and Germany's main center-left party reached an agreement to form a new coalition government on Wednesday after a final session of negotiations that dragged on for 24 hours.

"We have a coalition agreement that means positive things for many, many citizens," Merkel's chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, said as he left the talks. "And now we all want to have a shower, because we have negotiated long and hard over the last few hours."

The deal between Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, its Bavaria-only sister party, the Christian Social Union, and the center-left Social Democrats won't bring an immediate end to the political limbo following Germany's Sept. 24 election. The country has already broken its post-World War II record for the longest time from an election to the swearing-in of a new government.

A deal will be put to a ballot of the Social Democrats' more than 460,000 members, a process that will take a few weeks. Many members are skeptical after the party's disastrous election result, which followed four years of a "grand coalition" with the party serving as junior partner to Merkel's conservatives.

On the conservative side, Merkel needs only the approval of a party congress of her CDU, a far lower hurdle.

Another senior conservative expressed relief that a deal had finally been done. Alexander Dobrindt, the CSU's top federal lawmaker, said it had been time for negotiators to come out of their "trenches" and "we succeeded."

"I think it was time to have the prospect of a government in Germany," Dobrindt told reporters. "So it's a good morning."

According to news agency dpa, citing unidentified sources, the Social Democrats were set to get the foreign, labor and finance ministries — the latter a major prize, held by Merkel's CDU for the past eight years. The interior ministry, also previously held by the CDU, would go to the CSU.

"I think this is an excellent result, in terms of content as well as with regards to the ministries, senior Social Democrat lawmaker Hubertus Heil said. "We can be very satisfied."

A rejection of the deal by Social Democrat members, would leave a minority government under Merkel or a new election as the only viable options.

Merkel's attempt to put together a government with two smaller parties collapsed in November. Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz, who had previously ruled out renewing the coalition of Germany's biggest parties, then reversed course.

Merkel has been running a caretaker government since late October.

While that poses no problems for day-to-day business, it means that Germany — the European Union's most populous member with its biggest economy — hasn't been in a position to launch major initiatives or play any significant role in the debate on the EU's future, led so far by French President Emmanuel Macron.