Germany: Merkel's fate hangs on outcome of membership vote

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is awaiting results from a vote by grassroots members of a potential coalition partner to learn if she will be able to form a new government.

Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party prepared Saturday to count the ballots its members cast on a proposed coalition government agreement with Merkel's conservatives.

The result is expected to be announced on Sunday.

A majority "yes" vote means Merkel would remain chancellor for a fourth term, after 12 years in office as one of Europe's dominant politicians.

A "no" vote would bring uncertainty. It could lead to new elections — or a minority government unprecedented in postwar Germany.

Germany's parties have struggled to form a governing coalition, leaving Merkel in charge of a caretaker government since a September election.