German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she intends to present her third-term cabinet on Dec. 15, the day after the Social Democratic Party says whether its members voted to join her government.
Merkel’s comment today suggested she’s confident the SPD’s postal ballot will pass, clearing the way for the Christian Democratic leader to govern Europe’s biggest economy with the Social Democrats as junior partner for the second time since 2005.
“We have to wait another three days, or let’s say 3 1/2, until the cabinet composition sees the light of day,” Merkel said at a news conference in Berlin. She said she’s “very pleased” with the participation in the SPD vote.
SPD officials have said members will favor returning to government because the party won concessions from Merkel, including a national minimum wage, during five weeks of coalition talks after she won elections on Sept. 22.
About 300,000 SPD members, or more than 60 percent, have voted, party spokesman Tobias Duenow said by phone today. That’s about three times the number needed to validate the ballot. Party head Sigmar Gabriel will announce the result on the afternoon of Dec. 14 after a day of ballot counting by 400 helpers at a sealed building in Berlin, he said.
In the battle for cabinet posts, SPD leaders have given up on the Finance Ministry, effectively ceding the post to the incumbent, Wolfgang Schaeuble, two party officials with knowledge of the deliberations said last week. The Social Democrats are meantime poised to take control of Germany’s clean-energy overhaul.
While SPD leaders criss-crossed Germany over the past two weeks to lobby members to back the coalition deal with Merkel, the “silent majority” that didn’t attend is the “great unknown,” Ulrich Sarcinelli, a political scientist at the University of Koblenz-Landau, said in an interview.
“It seems that the membership vote mobilized party members who were feeling frustrated,” Sarcinelli said. “But there could yet be a surprise outcome.”
About 70 percent of SPD members will probably back a repeat of the “grand coalition” of Germany’s two biggest parties, Kurt Beck, a former SPD national chairman who governed Rhineland-Palatinate state for 19 years, said in an interview on Nov. 15.
Backing among SPD members is assured, Thomas Oppermann, the party’s chief parliamentary whip, was quoted as saying in an interview with Die Welt newspaper published Dec. 8.
Passage requires approval by a simple majority of at least 20 percent of the SPD’s almost 475,000 members. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union endorsed the coalition agreement at a meeting of 167 national delegates two days ago. The 185-page pact outlines policy for the next four years.