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POLITICS

What’s next after Merkel’s coalition breakthrough?

Germany inched toward a new government on Friday as Chancellor Angela Merkel and the centre-left Social Democrats agreed to move ahead with formal talks to build a coalition.

What's next after Merkel's coalition breakthrough?
The Willy Brandt Haus - headquarters of the SPD party - on Friday. Photo: DPA

The in-principle pact after months of paralysis averts the unpopular prospect of snap elections for now, but there are still several hurdles to clear, some of which may prove perilous.

SPD party meet

 The Social Democratic Party (SPD) has promised members a say at key junctures of the negotiation process with Merkel's CDU-CSU alliance.

The first key date will be January 21st, when around 600 party delegates will gather in Bonn to look at the outline deal obtained Friday.

Deep scepticism runs through the party, because of fears that to again govern in Merkel's shadow will force the SPD to betray its ideals and further damage its voter appeal.

However, SPD chief Martin Schulz, who had also initially ruled out governing under Merkel, praised the deal Friday and said the party leadership had unanimously backed the coalition blueprint.

If the SPD delegates give the thumbs up, formal coalition talks could in theory begin as soon as January 22nd.

Coalition contract 

The broad policy outline will then have to be fleshed out over weeks of talks involving policy experts into a formal “coalition contract”.

This means that negotiators will return to the table to thrash out the fine print that will essentially determine Germany's political programme for the next four years.

In 2013, when Merkel was seeking the current coalition with the SPD, this process took three weeks.

But a successful conclusion of the talks does not spell the end, because the SPD's 450,000 rank and file will then be called to a vote on whether to sign on the dotted line.

The CSU's chief Horst Seehofer said he hoped a new government would be in place before Easter which falls on April 1st.

Bundestag vote 

If all goes well for her, Merkel, after 12 years in power, will be elected for a fourth term by a majority of lawmakers in the Bundestag.

She would then likely face the most complicated task — holding the coalition together for four years despite their deep-seated differences.

Some political observers expect a now weakened Merkel to leave early and allow a successor to settle into the chancellorship ahead of 2021 elections.

Oskar Niedermayer of Berlin's Free University said that “in the interest of her party's electoral strength, she should not stay in office for the entire legislative term”.

Another analyst, Lothar Probst of Bremen University, told the Handelsblatt business daily that the coalition could break up early in a fight, which would mean “the deck is reshuffled and Merkel's chancellorship could reach an early end”.

SEE ALSO: What we know so far about the proposed new coalition deal

POLITICS

IN PICTURES: Germany hosts G7 summit with Bavarian twist

G7 leaders are meeting in Bavaria to discuss important issues including Russia's war on Ukraine and the food crisis. The event is known for producing memorable pictures. Here's a look at the best images and tweets so far.

IN PICTURES: Germany hosts G7 summit with Bavarian twist

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The Group of Seven wealthy nations is holding their annual summit in the stunning surroundings of the Bavarian Alps. 

The world leaders are engaged in talks at the Schloss Elmau with a focus on Russia’s war on Ukraine, climate change, energy, the global food crisis and rising inflation. 

The G7 gatherings are known known for producing some memorable photos and amusing moments, and this year is no exception. Here’s a look at the best so far. 

When the G7 summit started on Sunday, the southern state of Bavaria became the standout attraction. 

Leaders of the nations involved – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the USA – were given traditional Bavarian welcomes. 

Spearheaded by Bavarian premier Markus Söder, the leaders were greeted by people clad in Bavarian costumes, such as the dirndl. 

It sparked heated debates on how Germany is portrayed to the rest of the world.  

READ ALSO: Can Scholz create a Merkel-like buzz at the G7 in Bavaria?

Journalist Mathieu von Rohr said on Twitter: “It’s hard to imagine what Söder would have done to Germany’s image in the world as chancellor.”

Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, walks past people wearing traditional Bavarian costumes after his arrival at Munich airport on June 26th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Karmann

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, walks past people wearing traditional Bavarian costume after his arrival at Munich airport on June 26th.

The left wing newspaper Taz on Monday led with a front page that included this headline: “Finally, indigenous peoples at the G7 summit”.

READ ALSO: Why Bavaria does politics differently to the rest of Germany

The photo of US President Joe Biden signing his name in the Bavarian guest book to Germany produced lots of good captions. 

Nathan Ma poked fun at Germany’s infamous overly complicated contracts that are hard to get out of.

Commentators in Germany have also been making their views known about the events at the summit. 

German broadcaster BR said in an opinion article that the opening G7 event was “like a Monty Python sketch”.

Writer Max Büch said: “Yes, it’s embarrassing that Joe Biden is being coerced by Markus Söder to sign the guestbook at the airport.”

He added: “But people in traditional costume are not embarrassing per se. Even if taz’s ‘indigenous peoples at the G7 summit’ is meant satirically, the title hits a very true core of the image that the rest of Germany still has of Bavaria.”

The southern German traditions continued with Schuhplattler, a traditional style of folk dance popular in the regions of Bavaria and Tyrol. 

“Bavaria makes up perhaps 10 percent of Germany,” one journalist said in another tweet on the Schuhplattler video. “But 90 percent of people abroad think this is all of us.

Bavarian premier Markus Söder defended the opening ceremony. 

He said on Twitter: “Bavaria is the land of homeland and custom: many thanks to our traditional costume associations, musicians and mountain riflemen for their support in welcoming the G7 heads of state. They present the Free State and our traditions with great pride. It was a great backdrop.”

Like every year, the pictures of G7 leaders joking around and getting up, close and personal have also been commented on.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz signals to the other G7 leaders during a photo shoot at Elmau. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler
 
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz signals to the other G7 leaders during a photo shoot at Elmau.
 
We’d love to be a fly on the wall for the private conversations being held between the leaders. Here German Chancellor Olaf Scholz looks on in amusement at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Elmau on June 26th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Elmau on June 26th.

The lack of women G7 leaders was also commented on. 

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