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Germany struggles to emerge from crisis after govt talks collapse

  • Published at 02:13 pm November 21st, 2017
Germany struggles to emerge from crisis after govt talks collapse

Germany's president was to start a difficult round of talks with party leaders on Tuesday in a last-ditch attempt to save the EU's top economy from the political turmoil sparked by the collapse of Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition talks.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who takes centre stage because he can call snap elections, is expected to use his diplomatic skills as a two-time former foreign minister to persuade reluctant party chiefs to return to the negotiating table.

The head of state, who spoke with Merkel on Monday, planned to meet with the left-leaning Greens at his Berlin Bellevue Castle and then, at 1500 GMT, with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), the party which pulled the pin on month-long coalition talks on Monday.

Its shock decision to withdraw from a potential three-way alliance has thrown the government of caretaker chancellor Angela Merkel into chaos, leaving her with only bad choices: wooing reluctant coalition partners back to the table, running a minority government, or facing new elections.

New protest party?

Sitting in the glass-domed lower house of the Bundestag were lawmakers of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), the anti-immigration, anti-Islam and anti-Merkel protest party that is at the heart of the crisis.

Its entry into parliament in September 24 elections with almost 13% of the vote cost Merkel's conservatives and other mainstream parties dearly, further fragmented the party political landscape and made it harder to gain a parliamentary majority.

Merkel's headache was compounded when her former junior coalition partners, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), scored a dismal election result and vowed to go into opposition, a decision they have so far refused to budge from.

A subsequent four-week negotiating marathon to forge a new governing alliance dubbed "Jamaica", after the parties' black, yellow and green colours, collapsed when the FDP pulled out.

Lame-duck government

Germany now faces weeks, if not months, of paralysis with a lame-duck government that is unlikely to take bold policy action at home or on the European stage, as the EU faces issues from Brexit to ambitious French reforms plans for the bloc.

"The politics of Europe's most powerful economy, and until recently its main anchor of stability, has just entered a period of deep uncertainty," said Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy.

Merkel stressed on Monday that if it came to fresh elections, likely not before February, she would be willing to run again, dismissing speculation that her 12-year reign is coming to an end.

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