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Road clear for Merkel's 3rd term as center-left party votes to join new German government

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a military welcome ceremony for the President of Mali Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)The Associated Press

  • Social Democratic Party (SPD) volunteers count members' votes in Berlin, Germany, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013. Germany's main center-left party is counting votes in a ballot of its members on whether to join Chancellor Angela Merkel in a new government — the key remaining hurdle to Merkel embarking on her third term. The result of the vote by the Social Democrats' more than 470,000 members on whether to join a "grand coalition" under the conservative Merkel is expected later Saturday. (AP Photo/Christian Thiel)The Associated Press

  • Social Democratic Party (SPD) volunteers count members' votes in Berlin, Germany, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013. Germany's main center-left party is counting votes in a ballot of its members on whether to join Chancellor Angela Merkel in a new government — the key remaining hurdle to Merkel embarking on her third term. The result of the vote by the Social Democrats' more than 470,000 members on whether to join a "grand coalition" under the conservative Merkel is expected later Saturday. (AP Photo/Christian Thiel)The Associated Press

Members of Germany's main center-left party have voted to go into government with Chancellor Angela Merkel, clearing the way for Merkel to start her third term at the head of a new coalition.

The ballot of the Social Democrats' nearly 475,000 members caps post-World War II Germany's longest effort to form a government. It sets the stage for Parliament to re-elect the conservative Merkel on Tuesday.

Senior Social Democrat Barbara Hendricks said Saturday that three-quarters of the members who voted approved entering a "grand coalition" government of right and left.

Merkel's conservatives won Sept. 22 elections but fell short of a majority and saw their previous pro-business coalition partners lose their parliamentary seats — forcing them to reach across the aisle for new allies.