Germany’s Conservatives and Social Democrats have overwhelmingly backed plans struck last week for a coalition government.
The CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union also endorsed the deal in a separate party congress so Angela Merkel is now almost certain to become Germany’s first woman chancellor.
She told her party to stay united as the first “grand coalition” since the 1960’s tackles the nation’s “unbelievably big problems”.
At the heart of the power sharing agreement is a plan to bring Germany’s budget deficit back to within EU limits by 2007 – a huge challenge requiring an estimated 35 billion euros.
Gerhard Schroeder said a bittersweet farewell in what was described as his last speech to the party as Germany’s chancellor.
He will keep his seat in parliament for the time being, but there is speculation he will not serve the full four year term.
“No one will be forced to cheer or love the grand coalition,” he said But this government unmistakably carries the imprint of the Social Democrats,” he added.
The Bundestag lower house of parliament will have the final word next Tuesday, but given the coalition partners’ overwhelming majority there, the vote is expected to be a formality.