Coalition Politics

Merkel's Government Gets Back to Work

Party leaders German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Horst Seehofer (C) of the Christian Social Union (CSU) and Sigmar Gabriel of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) arrive for a news conference after signing a preliminary agreement, which has still to be approved by the members of the SPD, in the Bundespressekonferenz in Berlin, November 27, 2013. Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) clinched a coalition deal early on Wednesday that puts Germany on track to have a new government in place by Christmas. The agreement was struck roughly two months after Merkel was the clear winner in national elections but fell short of a parliamentary majority, forcing her into talks with the arch-rival SPD, with whom she ruled in an awkward "grand coalition" during her first term as Chancellor from 2005-2009. REUTERS/Thomas Peter (GERMANY - Tags: POLITICS)
Party leaders, Chancellor Angela Merkel (r) Horst Seehofer (c) and Sigmar Gabriel.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The government must work together to clear a legislative backlog on contentious issues, like the inheritance tax and pensions, which have been ignored recently.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Germany held three sets of regional elections on Sunday, which pitted the three governing parties against each other.
    • The country will have to hold general elections before October 2017.
    • The government has a backlog of legislation it needs to work through, including pensions, the labor market and inheritance tax.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

The business of government has been put on hold in recent weeks, as all parties poured their energies into last Sunday’s three state elections. But now, with the drama over, the governing parties are getting back to work.

On Wednesday, the ministers in the three parties that make up the current right-left ruling coalition, the Christian Democratic Union, their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, and the Social Democrats, are coming together for their first cabinet meeting since the elections.

The agenda for that meeting looks dull. It includes things like the “draft legislation to improve the assertion of claims by authors and practicing artists to suitable compensation,” yet it marks the start of a return to normality as the parties return to the business of running the country.

Sources say the first big meeting of the three party leaders, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Horst Seehofer, head of the CSU, and SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel, will likely take place “after Easter.”

Ms. Merkel and Mr. Seehofer are already scheduled to meet later on Wednesday and are likely to nail down the main issues. Coalition sources say that Mr. Gabriel may also be invited to that discussion.

There is no shortage of topics to discuss. One of the most contentious is the labor market. In their coalition agreement, the three mainstream parties had agreed to regulate temporary employment and contracts for services in such a way that they can no longer be misused as an instrument of wage dumping.

The first draft legislation, drawn up by the SPD Labor Minister Andrea Nahles, failed because Ms. Merkel and other CDU ministers felt it went beyond the coalition agreement.

And then Mr. Seehofer’s party obstructed the second draft. The CSU parliamentary group leader Gerda Hasselfeldt said on Tuesday she would seek to clarify the remaining objections, such as the definition of equal pay for temp workers and permanent members of staff, in talks with Ms. Nahles.

However, with the labor ministry insisting that there is no need to change the legislation, it is likely to be a topic for the leaders meeting. Family Minister Manuela Schwesig’s plans to promote equal pay for men and women through a salary disclosure requirement could also be on the agenda.

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