German parties say the agreement is ready for a new coalition government

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BERLIN (AP) – The three parties negotiating to form Germany’s next government will finalize and present their coalition agreement on Wednesday, two of the potential partners said. The deal paves the way for center-left leader Olaf Scholz to replace longtime Chancellor Angela Merkel in the coming weeks.

The Center-Left Social Democrats have been negotiating with the environmental party the Green Party and the business-friendly Free Democrats since they won a national election by a narrow margin on 26 September. The latter two parties said that the agreement will be presented on Wednesday afternoon.

If party members sign it, the three-way alliance – which has never been tried in a national government – will replace the current “grand coalition” of the country’s traditional major parties. The Social Democrats have acted as junior partners to Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats.

Merkel, who did not run for a fifth term, is expected to be succeeded by Scholz, 63, who has been her finance minister and deputy chancellor since 2018.

The three governing parties have said they hope Parliament will elect Scholz as chancellor in the week beginning December 6. Before that can happen, the coalition agreement requires approval from a vote of the Greens’ membership and from the convention for the other two parties.

The news of the deal came when Merkel led what would probably be her last government meeting. Scholz gave the 67-year-old, who has led Germany since 2005, a bouquet of flowers.

Negotiations on the three-way alliance were relatively harmonious and rapid compared to previous coalition talks. But the political transition, with Merkel as caretaker of lamb duck, has hampered Germany’s response to the recent rise in coronavirus cases.

Few details have emerged from the negotiations on closed doors, including how the parties will divide the ministerial portfolios. The Alliance is a potentially troubled mix because it brings together two traditionally left-wing parties with one, the Free Democrats, who have tended to ally with the center-right.

A preliminary agreement last month indicated that Germany would bring forward its deadline for ending the use of coal power from 2038 to 2030, while expanding the expansion of renewable energy production.

At the insistence of the Free Democrats, the prospective partners said they would not raise taxes or drop the curbs to raise debt, making funding a key issue.

Merkel’s Christian Democrats are currently engaged in a leadership contest over who will be their next leader and revive the party’s fortunes after suffering the worst election result ever.

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