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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

CULTURE

Pay women footballers the same as men, says German chancellor

Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday made a push for equal pay for men and women international footballers after Germany's successful run at the recent European Championships.

Pay women footballers the same as men, says German chancellor

“My position on this is clear,” Scholz said after a meeting with the German Football Association (DFB) to discuss the issue.

“We talked about how we can continue to help more girls and women get excited about football. Of course, the wages at such tournaments play a major role in this,” he said.

“That’s why it makes sense to discuss equal pay. I made the suggestion and I’m very grateful that there is a willingness to discuss this issue.”

Germany scored their biggest major tournament success since 2015 at this year’s European Championships, losing to England in the final at Wembley.

Scholz attended the final and also supported the women’s team by tweeting: “It’s 2022, and women and men should be paid equally. This also applies to sport, especially for national teams.”

READ ALSO: Scholz to cheer on Germany at Euro 2022 final

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) visits the DFP headquarters on Tuesday.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) visits the DFP (German Football Association) headquarters on Tuesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Germany’s women would have received €60,000 each if they had triumphed at the tournament, while the men would have received €400,000 each had they prevailed at the Euros last year.

Bernd Neuendorf, president of the DFB, said he understood the argument “that equal work and success should also have the same value”.

“I’m willing to discuss in our committees whether our payment system is up to date or whether it should be adjusted,” he said.

Germany coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg suggested that international footballers’ wages could be evened out by paying women more and men less.

Officials must now “follow up with action” after the meeting, she said in an interview with the ZDF broadcaster.

Scholz said he was “very, very proud” of the women’s performance at the Euros, even if “it didn’t quite work out”.

“I hope it will have a long-lasting effect, not only on the players themselves… but also on football in Germany,” he said.

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