BERLIN (AP) — The Latest on Germany's politics (all times local):

4 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron has praised the decision by Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party to join a coalition government with long-time German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc.

His office said Sunday that Macron "welcomed the outcome of the SPD vote."

The French leader was quoted as saying "this is good news for Europe. France and Germany will work together in the coming weeks to develop new initiatives and advance the European project."

Macron, who was elected on a centrist platform last year, sent a congratulatory message to Merkel and acting Social Democrat leader Olaf Scholz.

Parliament is expected to elect Merkel to a fourth term as chancellor next week.

Germany is a key political and economic partner of France in Europe.

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11:30 a.m.

Angela Merkel has welcomed the decision by members of Germany's Social Democratic Party to support a coalition government with the long-time chancellor.

Her party quoted Merkel on Twitter Sunday, saying "I congratulate the SPD on this clear result and look forward to continuing to work together for the good of our country."

The general-secretary of Merkel's party and her possible future successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, said in statement Sunday that "the new government has a lot of work ahead of it that needs to be started soon."

The Social Democrats' membership ballot backed a coalition deal with Merkel's Union bloc by a two-thirds majority.

Merkel had to rely on her center-left rivals' support after failing to clinch a coalition agreement with two smaller parties last year.

Parliament is expected to elect her to a fourth term as chancellor next week.

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8 a.m.

Members of Germany's Social Democratic Party have voted in favor of joining a coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc.

The decision clears the last major hurdle to the formation of a new government and a fourth term for Merkel.

Sunday's announcement by the party's leadership ends almost six months of uncertainty in German politics, the longest the country has been without a government in its post-war history.

The center-left Social Democrats had furiously debated whether to extend the so-called grand coalition for another four years after suffering a slump in last year's election. In the end, two-thirds of the party's 464,000 members approved a coalition deal.

Parliament is expected to meet next week to elect Merkel as chancellor, confirming her position as one of Europe's dominant politicians.