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Momentum grows for another grand coalition in Germany

  • Published at 02:06 pm November 25th, 2017
Momentum grows for another grand coalition in Germany

Chancellor Angela Merkel set her sights on forthcoming talks with the Social Democrats (SPD) as a path to forming a stable government in Germany and rejected new elections after three-way coalition talks collapsed last weekend.

Merkel's fourth term was cast into doubt when the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) walked out of talks with her conservative bloc and the Greens last Sunday, causing a political impasse in Europe's biggest economy.

But on Friday, the Social Democrats (SPD) reversed a previous decision and agreed to talk to Merkel, raising the possibility of an extension of the 'grand coalition' which has ruled Germany for the last four years, or a minority government.

Addressing party members on Saturday, Merkel argued voters had given her conservatives a mandate to rule in a September 24 election which handed her party the most parliamentary seats but limited coalition options.

‘Worked well’ with SPD

She welcomed the opportunity to explore the possibilities with the SPD, provided it take place on the basis of mutual respect.

Merkel defended the record of the last 'grand coalition', saying under its leadership Germany enjoyed the strongest labour market for decades, a balanced budget and pensioners and families had benefited.

"We worked well together," she said.

Merkel also laid out some priorities for a future government, including maintaining solid finances, making some tax cuts, extending the digital infrastructure and aiming to limit the number of migrants entering Germany to 200,000 per year.

Acknowledging an election result that reflected voters' fears and insecurities, the conservatives and other parties bled support to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), Merkel acknowledged the task ahead was difficult.

"The election result shows that we have a mountain of tasks ahead," she said.

SPD leader Martin Schulz, who had come under intense pressure to agree to talks for the sake of political stability, after rejecting the idea since election night, said on Friday that there was nothing 'automatic' about the outcome.

He has promised party members a vote on the talks. The SPD is split as many members fear that renewing a grand coalition would be political suicide. It scored its worst result since 1933 in the September election.

Some senior SPD members have made clear that the party would not be held hostage by Merkel. "Mrs Merkel is not in a position to be setting conditions," Malu Dreyer, premier of the state of Rhineland Palatinate, told the Trierscher Volksfreund.

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