At a special meeting of party leaders in Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats have approved a coalition deal with the Social Democrats and their sister party, the CSU. The SPD votes later this week.
There were no votes against joining a coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD) at a special "small conference" of about 180 members of the Christian Democrats' (CDU) leadership in Berlin on Monday. However, two of the party's economic leaders withheld their votes, a sign that the party isn't completely behind the carefully-negotiated deal with the SPD.
One of the biggest points of contention concerned compromises the CDU had made with the SPD on retirement policy. Beginning next year, full retirement will be available at age 63 after at least 45 working years. The SPD also secured a nationwide minimum wage of 8.50 euros ($11.55) per hour which will go into effect in 2015.
Before voting began, Merkel said the compromises necessary for a deal with the SPD "were not taken lightly," but that they set up a government that would be able to "tackle big tasks."
The CDU's sister party, the CSU, has already approved the deal, while those among the SPD's 470,000 members who haven't yet voted by post are scheduled to weigh in on Thursday. The result of the SPD's vote is expected by Sunday at the latest. The party's youth wing rejected the coalition deal at a meeting over the weekend.
The CDU's vote was the next step in restoring a traditional "grand coalition" to German politics, referring to a government run by the nation's two biggest parties.
mz/kms (dpa, AFP)