Germany will finally have a government after Social Democrats clear the way for Merkel’s fourth term

A political impasse that kept Germany in limbo for more than five months ended Sunday as the center-left Social Democrats voted to join a government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.

The vote of the party’s 464,000 rank-and-file members revives a so-called “grand coalition” – the relatively drama-free but entirely loveless marriage of convenience between Germany’s traditionally dominant parties that governed for the previous four years.

More importantly, it averts a detour into what would have been uncharted political territory for the country, with Merkel facing an unpalatable choice between governing without a parliamentary majority or facing new elections following an inconclusive September vote.

But even with the question of who will run Germany out of the way, the prolonged deadlock has left Merkel weakened. More so than at any other point in her tenure, questions are swirling over who will follow her as leader of Europe’s most populous nation.