15 Dec 2013

German party backs grand coalition

7:32 am on 15 December 2013

The opposition Social Democrats in Germany have voted overwhelmingly in favour of entering a grand coalition government with centre-right chancellor Angela Merkel.

A new government can now be formed, three months after September's general election.

SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel, centre, and party members.

SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel, centre, and party members. Photo: AFP

The chancellor's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), won the 22 September poll, but fell short of a majority. They needed a partner and spent much of the last three months negotiating a coalition deal with rival SPD, which came a distant second.

The SPD said 76% of its members who took part in the unprecedented postal ballot voted to join forces with the conservatives despite initial misgivings.

Thanks to what analysts called a clever strategic move to ask grassroots members to vote on the coalition, the SPD forced Ms Merkel to accept many of the SPD's leftist policies, Reuters reports.

A "no" vote could have plunged Germany into crisis and complicated European Union efforts for a banking union reform that would see the European Central bank police the sector with a new agency to shut down weak lenders.

The coalition agreement is due to be signed on Monday and Merkel's new government could be sworn into office on Tuesday.