German SPD members vote to join Merkel

December 15, 2013 - 10:44:58 am
Social Democratic Party (SPD) supporters applaud the result of their party member vote for a new “grand coalition” between the SPD and the Christian Democratic Union in Berlin yesterday.
BERLIN: Germany’s Social Democrats voted overwhelmingly in favour of joining a “grand coalition” with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives yesterday, clearing the way for a new right-left government that will take office on Tuesday.

Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), won the September 22 election but fell short of a majority. They needed a partner and spent much of the last three months negotiating a coalition deal with the arch rival SPD, which came a distant second.

A “no” vote could have plunged Germany into crisis and complicated European Union efforts for a banking union reform that would see the European Central bank police the sector with a new agency to shut down weak lenders. A “no” vote would have also forced Social Democrats (SPD) leader Sigmar Gabriel and his deputies to resign. Despite losing the election, they lobbied hard to win over sceptical members after getting much of their campaign programme incorporated into the coalition agreement.

The SPD said 76 percent of its grassroots members who took part in the unprecedented postal ballot voted to join forces with the conservatives despite initial misgivings. The SPD said 256,643 voted “yes” while 80,921 voted “no”. Some 32,000 ballots were invalid.

“We’re not only the oldest party in Germany but we’re also the most modern party - the party of mass participation,” Gabriel told some 400 cheering SPD volunteers who had spent the day counting some 369,680 ballots in a cold Berlin warehouse. 

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