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Germany's Social Democrats overwhelmingly back coalition deal at party conference

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By AP with Euronews
Olaf Scholz, SPD Chancellor-designate waves at the SPD party conference at Willy Brandt House in Berlin, Germany, Saturday, Dec.4, 2021
Olaf Scholz, SPD Chancellor-designate waves at the SPD party conference at Willy Brandt House in Berlin, Germany, Saturday, Dec.4, 2021   -   Copyright  Michael Kappeler/DPA via AP

German Chancellor-designate Olaf Scholz's Social Democratic Party gave its overwhelming approval on Saturday to forming a new government with the Greens and business-friendly Free Democrats.

The party convention backed the coalition deal by 598 votes to seven, with three abstentions.

It is the first of three such decisions needed for Scholz to take office next week.

Scholz's Social Democrats narrowly won Germany's September 26 election and launched negotiations with the Greens and Free Democrats to form a governing coalition that hasn't been tried before at the federal level.

They emerged with a deal on November 24 after relatively quick negotiations.

The three-way alliance aims to modernise Europe’s biggest economy and step up efforts against climate change.

It will send outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right Union bloc into opposition after 16 years in power.

The Social Democrats had thus far been junior partners in the so-called "grand coalition" of Germany's traditional big parties.

"A lot of people have grown up with the idea that is natural for a member of the CDU to lead the government, and now ... the Social Democrats will provide the next chancellor," Scholz told a largely online party convention.

"This will be a government of three parties that want to venture more progress for Germany."

Scholz set his sights for the new alliance beyond just the four-year term that is now beginning. He said the government aims “to work together in a friendly way and be re-elected.”

The plan is for Scholz to be elected as chancellor on Wednesday and to lead what has been called a “traffic light” coalition after the parties' colours of red, green and yellow.

Before that can happen, members of the parties need to approve the coalition deal.

The Social Democrats are holding a convention on Saturday and the Free Democrats have one scheduled for Sunday. The result of a ballot of the Greens’ roughly 125,000-strong membership is expected on Monday.

Key pledges by the prospective partners include an increase in Germany's minimum wage to €12 per hour from the current €9.60 — a move that Scholz has said "means a wage increase for 10 million citizens."

The three parties have also vowed to get 400,000 new apartments per year built in an effort to curb rising rental prices.

Scholz, 63, has been Merkel’s finance minister and vice-chancellor since 2018.

Unlike the other two parties, the Social Democrats haven't yet named their remaining seven Cabinet nominees, who will include the interior, defence and health ministers.

Overseeing the Health Ministry is a crucial job at a time when Germany is imposing new restrictions to break a wave of coronavirus infections.