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Merkel's coalition avoids crisis over pensions
[BERLIN] The German coalition parties on Sunday reached a deal on pension reform, thus avoiding a political crisis which threatened to collapse the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
After difficult talks, Dr Merkel's conservative CDU and its Bavarian partner the CSU agreed with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) on a deal on topping up the basic pension for low-income recipients who have worked all their lives.
Markus Soder, leader of the CSU in Bavaria, hailed the deal saying "there is no longer any reason to question the continuation of the coalition government".
"We have found a good and defendable solution for the CDU on this difficult subject," CDU president Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told a joint news conference with the CSU and SPD leaders.
Interim SPD leader Malu Dreyer spoke of the compromise deal as "an important socio-political step".
The two camps in the ruling coalition have been at loggerheads over the pensions issue in a country confronted by an ageing population.
A major political crisis had loomed among the government partners who also face internal party problems.
Germany on Saturday marked 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall that ushered in the end of communism and national reunification.
But a new political chasm is opening up in Germany with the far-right gaining a strong foothold in the former communist states.
Last month, Dr Merkel's centre-right Christian Democrats were beaten into third place by the populist, far-right AfD in state elections in the ex-communist eastern state of Thuringia. Popular state premier Bodo Ramelow's far-left Die Linke party easily won the state race.
This was just one example of the squeeze being put on the traditional parties in or near the political centre.
The junior coalition partners, the centre-left SPD, are fighting for political survival and are expected to decide next month whether to remain in the government or change direction and trigger early elections.
On Sunday at least there was agreement in the coalition that the award of the new topped-up pension would be means-tested, a point demanded by the CDU.
Since the coalition came into being in March 2018, Dr Merkel has appeared less politically solid and observers have begun questioning her ability to lead after 14 years in office.
The 65-year-old has already said this will be her last term, due to end in the autumn of 2021.