Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has clinched a deal with the country’s second largest political party after gruelling late-night talks, paving the way towards a new coalition government.
After more than 24 hours of talks, Mrs Merkel agreed on a 28-page blueprint for formal coalition negotiations with the Social Democrats (SPD) on Friday morning.
Mrs Merkel has been fighting to create a new governing coalition following a poor showing in last September’s general election which saw her Christian Democrat (CDU) party lose ground to the hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
Her first attempt to build a so-called “Jamaica” coalition with the Greens and Liberals failed last December, forcing Mrs Merkel to seek a renewal of the “Grand” left-right coalition with the SPD that saw both parties sustain electoral losses at last September’s polls.
Mrs Merkel has said that the negotiations have been “tough” and that there were “big obstacles”, as the parties had to find agreement on thorny issues such as Germany’s migration policy, public finances and on Europe.
The blueprint agrees to limit family reunification for refugees, which had been a sticking point between the centre-left SPD and Mrs Merkel’s conservative alliance, and to impose an upper limit of 220,000 on the number of new refugees and migrants allowed into the country each year.
Agreements have also been reached over German welfare and taxation.
Mrs Merkel has ruled with the SPD in two of her three terms in office, including in the last parliament.
But a re-run of their partnership is not yet certain, as SPD party members will need to vote on the agreement before formal negotiations can begin.
Many SPD members are against governing alongside Mrs Merkel, after the party received its worst result since the Second World War in Germany’s September elections.
Mrs Merkel badly needs the talks to succeed to avoid further erosion of her personal authority and weakening of German international influence.
But Mr Schulz, leader of SPD, and the leader of her Bavarian allies, Horst Seehofer, also need to see a political breakthrough, political analyst Karl-Rudolf Korte of Duisburg-Essen University, has said.
“The negotiations are not just about a coalition, but also their careers. It would be the end for all three if this coalition does not come about,” he told public broadcaster ZDF.