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>> Ending months of political deadlock. Germany's Social Democrats, or SPD, voted on Sunday to start formal coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives. The decision means that the country, Europe's economic powerhouse, can move one step closer to a stable government. Around 600 delegates gathered to debate whether to renew an alliance with Merkel's conservatives.
The SPD voted by 362 to 279, with one abstention to press ahead with negotiations. A recount was held after an initial show of hands was too close to call. Just before delegates voted, the SPD's leader, Martin Schulz made an impassioned plea for a yes vote, telling them that their decision was being watched across Germany and Europe.
Despite winning the vote, Schulz is facing a strong backlash from the party's left and youth wings. Some have argued that the SPD should reinvent itself in opposition after scoring its worst election results since 1949, last September. Regardless, the results of the vote will likely please a wider Europe.
Germany has the continent's largest economy, and Merkel has long played a leading role in its economic and security affairs. She's also played a crucial part in Brexit negotiations following Britain's decision to leave the EU bloc. SPD critics of the move will likely now encourage Schultz to push for more concessions on labor, health, and migration policies.
Coalition talks are expected to start this week. Reluctant SBD party members will get to vote on whether any final coalition deal that emerges goes ahead.