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Germany Forms New Governing Coalition


Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germans can breathe a sigh of relief now that the center-left Social Democrats have voted to enter a coalition with Merkel's conservatives. That allows her to form a government after five months without one. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports on what appears to be the end of a political crisis in Germany.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: On the surface, the results of the mail-in vote announced in Berlin by the Social Democrats looked pretty good.


OLAF SCHOLZ: (Speaking German).

NELSON: Two-thirds of the party members who voted said yes to joining Chancellor Merkel in a new government. The turnout was unexpectedly high, with some 80 percent of eligible SPD members submitting ballots.


SCHOLZ: (Speaking German).

NELSON: Interim party leader Olaf Scholz added, "We have clarity, but it wasn't an easy decision." That is perhaps an understatement, considering the pushback against a new grand coalition that has roiled Germany in recent weeks. A key critic was the head of the SPD youth wing, Kevin Kuehnert.

KEVIN KUENHERT: (Speaking German).

NELSON: He told German public broadcaster ARD that the last partnership between his party and the Conservatives was unremarkable and left Germany rudderless, with mainstream parties doing poorly in the last elections. But growing frustration among Germans over the political impasse and concerns that new elections could lead to even worse results caused most critics to back down. Merkel, meanwhile, is breathing a sigh of relief. She was badly weakened by her lingering inability to form a government. Many analysts here predict she will now be able to finish her fourth and final term as Chancellor without having to face challengers. Daniela Schwarzer heads the German Council on Foreign Relations.

DANIELA SCHWARZER: Those actors who may lead their own campaigns to become her successors - they are pretty busy with their new jobs. And they have a bit of time to shape up their strategy and to position themselves.

NELSON: What Merkel can expect is a lot of pushback from the far-right AfD party. With the Social Democrats now in the government, the AfD becomes the main opposition party in the German parliament and has vowed to block the governing coalition at every turn. Merkel's new government is expected to begin its work later this month after she is re-elected chancellor by the German parliament 10 days from now. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF AIOLIS RUE'S "ILLUMINATE US") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.