• German parties reach coalition deal

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    BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed on Wednesday to form a coalition government with campaign rivals the Social Democrats, two months after her conservatives won elections but fell short of a full majority.

    Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), their Bavarian allies the CSU and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) held 17 hours of marathon talks before bleary-eyed party leaders delivered the deal before dawn.

    In the tense final round of talks that capped five weeks of political horse-trading, the SPD scored key concessions, including a national minimum wage from 2015, while Merkel stuck to her guns on her own red-line issues, blocking higher taxes for the rich and opposing new debt from next fiscal year.

    The chancellor hopes to be sworn in for a third term on December 17 as leader of Europe’s biggest economy, but a key hurdle remains: a binding SPD membership ballot next month must still sign off on the proposed left-right “grand coalition.”

    “We negotiated hard till the end,” said SPD general secretary Andrea Nahles, emerging from the Berlin talks in the early hours, and adding that “for us it’s a package that, I believe, we can present to our members.”

    “The result is good for our country and carries a strong Christian-Democratic imprint,” said CDU secretary general Hermann Groehe, while his CSU counterpart Alexander Dobrindt voiced satisfaction that “all our key elements are reflected in the coalition contract.”

    AFP

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