Angela Merkel to launch government with centre-left rivals

After months of political limbo, German leader Angela Merkel will this week start governing with her centre-left rivals, an odd couple to jointly tackle challenges from eurozone woes to the country`s green energy shift.

AFP| Updated: Dec 17, 2013, 01:14 AM IST

Berlin: After months of political limbo, German leader Angela Merkel will this week start governing with her centre-left rivals, an odd couple to jointly tackle challenges from eurozone woes to the country`s green energy shift.

Merkel, whose conservatives triumphed in a September 22 vote but fell short of an absolute majority, is to be sworn in for a third term tomorrow, launching a `grand coalition` with her traditional rivals the Social Democrats (SPD).

A newspaper cartoon hinted at potential trouble ahead, with Merkel in a bridal dress and incoming SPD vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel as the groom, pledging "until death do us part" -- with Merkel clutching a dagger and Gabriel packing a gun.

Teaming up with an overwhelming majority against a tiny opposition of the Greens and far-left Linke, Germany`s two big parties will have the power to drive through major reform but also face the threat of reaching only bland compromises.

"Now the grand coalition has to show what the adjective `grand` stands for," commented the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). "Grand mutual mistrust? Grand, leaden paralysis? Or grand deeds after all?"

"The third Merkel government could ... Leave its mark on the republic," it added. "But it is more likely that the Germans will get from this government what they want from it: social-democratic politics with a bourgeois face."

Merkel today pledged "solid finances, secure prosperity and social welfare" and said that "a grand coalition is a coalition for grand tasks -- we want to make sure that the people in 2017 are better off, even better off, than they are today".

Despite past campaign-trail barbs and the battle looming ahead of 2017 elections, the new partners have pledged sensible cooperation and vowed pragmatism in their left-right government of Europe`s biggest economy.

Merkel keeps her trusted lieutenant, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, to continue Berlin`s tough loans-for-reform stance toward troubled eurozone countries and as the watchful guardian of the German public purse.

The SPD gets the foreign ministry, where Frank-Walter Steinmeier returns as Germany`s top diplomat, while the CDU`s rising star Ursula von der Leyen, a worldly high achiever and mother-of-seven, takes over the defence ministry.

Gabriel is charged with running a new "super ministry" combining the energy and economy portfolios, to push forward Germany`s nuclear exit and renewable energy drive, while putting a lid on ballooning costs and sticking to EU rules.