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Last Updated: Monday, 14 November 2005, 16:52 GMT
German parties back new coalition
German Chancellor-designate Angela Merkel (centre) of CDU, SPD chairman Franz Muentefering (right), CSU chairman Edmund Stoiber (left)
Germany's political rivals have had weeks of policy negotiations
Germany's leading political parties have overwhelmingly backed plans for a coalition government led by Christian Democrat (CDU) head Angela Merkel.

Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) voted for the deal hours after approval came from Ms Merkel's party.

Bavaria's CDU ally, the Christian Social Union (CSU), also voted "Yes".

The votes clear the way for Ms Merkel to be approved as chancellor by Germany's parliament in a vote scheduled for 22 November.

Germany 'at crossroads'

Mrs Merkel had told CDU members that the coalition deserved a chance.

She urged her party to stay united as the government tackles Germany's "unbelievably big problems".

This government carries unmistakably, perhaps primarily, the imprint of the Social Democrats
Gerhard Schroeder
Outgoing German Chancellor
"Germany stands at a crossroads where it is about whether we will preserve what makes this country strong - a social market economy in times of globalisation," she said.

The coalition deal, underpinned by a consolidation of the national budget and a rise in sales tax, was announced last week after a month of talks in the wake of an inconclusive election result.

The BBC's Ray Furlong, in Karlsruhe for the SPD meeting, says there is still strong criticism of the coalition agreement from business leaders, trade unions and others.


Members of the SPD gave a standing ovation to outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

In what was described as his last speech to the party as chancellor, he urged members to back the coalition plan.

1. Christian Democrats/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU): 226
2. Social Democrats (SPD): 222
3. Free Democrats (FDP): 61
4. Left Party: 54
5. Greens: 51

"No one will be forced to cheer or love the grand coalition," he said.

"But this government carries unmistakably, perhaps primarily, the imprint of the Social Democrats."

In addition, the SPD approved Ms Merkel's proposed cabinet line-up, and the nomination of the outgoing party chairman as deputy chancellor.

The CSU was anticipating a bitter debate over the style of its leader, Edmund Stoiber, who pulled out of the future cabinet two weeks ago.

The coalition goes to a vote in parliament on 22 November.

It will be the country's first "grand coalition" between the two main parties since the 1960s.

See Angela Merkel talking about the coalition

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