Merkel defends painful concessions to SPD, denies authority waning

Sigmar Gabriel and Martin Schulz in July 2017

Mrs Merkel faces growing internal dissent over her decision to give the post of finance minister to a Olaf Scholz, a Social Democrat (SPD), during hard coalition talks last week.

Merkel, who will serve a fourth term as chancellor if the coalition deal holds, has also faced criticism from her party's youth wing and others who feel she made too many concessions to the SPD.

The SPD snatched the powerful finance, foreign and labour ministries, as well as the justice and environment portfolios, while Ms Merkel's Bavarian allies the CSU took the interior ministry.

The governor of Schleswig-Holstein state, Daniel Guenther, said earlier in daily Die Welt that "we need new faces" in the Cabinet.

"I understand the disappointment", said Merkel, who has led Germany for the last 12 years.

"The transition to the post-Merkel era has begun", judged the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily, which added that Merkel's power was waning and "a risky mood" was starting to spread within her CDU.

The SPD and CDU both had their worst results for decades in the election, which catapulted the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) into parliament for the first time, with 94 seats.

In November, her efforts to form a government with two smaller parties failed, leaving the country in political deadlock and prompting some members of her CDU party to demand a succession plan.

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A survey of 5,127 voters conducted by pollster Civey on Wednesday for t-online indicated that nearly 60% of SPD supporters want the party's members to back the coalition deal.

The party's 464,000 members must approve the agreement in a mail ballot, whose results will be made public on March 4.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended her party's concessions during coalition talks as "painful" but "acceptable".

"I want to say that the we (the conservatives) have also approved the policies (in the agreement) and the finance minister can not simply do as he likes".

Hardliner Schaeuble became known in many eurozone nations for his tough stance towards Greece as it struggled to stay in the euro, and he is unlikely to be missed by the many debt-mired countries of southern Europe.

Following internal party backlash over current SPD leader Martin Schulz's attempt to become Germany's next foreign minister, Schulz announced on Friday that he was abandoning his bid for the post. "We agreed on a balanced budget, and European policy will be formulated jointly".

"I ran for a four-year term", she said, referring to Germany's federal election in September, in which Mrs Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won the largest share of the vote, but not the majority needed to govern alone.


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