Leading German politicians reach coalition agreement after weeks of haggling

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Ruling parties drop insistence on central role for leader Angela Merkel in forming coalition government

Leading German politicians have agreed a coalition agreement after nearly three months of negotiations, one of which saw the return of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) as the junior partners in the country’s second-largest party.

The governing parties dropped insistence on a central role for Merkel in forming a coalition government in the coming months after months of haggling between the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the CDU-CSU conservatives.

A fractious final round of talks between the conservative, liberal and Greens parties in Berlin on Thursday had initially stalled, raising the possibility that the grand coalition – of which the CDU and the CSU were junior partners until 2013 – could not be revived.

But a breakthrough at the last moment enabled the parties to reach agreement in most of the more than 1,700 pages of files that had to be pored over, negotiating books and party presentations over the past three months.

There was minor resistance to an FDP proposal for conservative Finance Minister Olaf Scholz to replace Merkel as CDU general secretary after the government is formed.

But the conservatives overcame that resistance, signaling a return to the grand coalition after a 19-month gap, during a mass meeting of party leaders in Berlin on Friday evening.

“The biggest danger of the grand coalition is that we don’t see it through,” Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is currently foreign minister but will not be heading Germany after his caretaker role ends on Saturday, said.

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