Alarmed by rise of far-right party in election, German industry urges swift coalition building

German Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) on a stage at the CDU election event in Berlin, Germany, on Sept 24, 2017. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BERLIN (Reuters) - Leading industry associations urged Germany's biggest parties to start coalition negotiations quickly following Sunday's (Sept 24) parliamentary election and form a stable government to avert damage to Germany's business environment.

Centre-right Chancellor Angela Merkel won her fourth consecutive election, but will have to build an uneasy coalition after her conservatives haemorrhaged support in the face of a surge by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

"Our companies need clear signals. Now it's all about averting damage to Germany as a place to do business," said Dieter Kempf, president of the BDI industry association.

"In the election campaign, politicians debated much too often about the past and much too little about the future,"Kempf said, referring to criticism of Merkel's decision in 2015 to leave Germany's borders open for roughly a million refugees.

In a clear jibe against the far-right anti-immigration AfD, which entered the party as the third-largest bloc with around 13 per cent, Kempf said: "The retreat into nationalism is no alternative for our country. We need massive investments in Germany in view of the run-down roads, inadequate digital infrastructure and many shortcomings in education."

The DIHK Chambers of Industry and Commerce called on the next government to massively increase investments, not least to tackle growing discontent.

"In these difficult times, we need a stable government and a coalition agreement that focuses on investment and the key issues of the future - infrastructure, education, research and innovation," DIHK President Eric Schweitzer said. "Such investments are also important for social cohesion."

The BDA employers' association called on the main parties to counter the rise of the AfD by paying close attention to voters'needs.

"The AfD in the German parliament is damaging our country,"BDA leader Ingo Kramer said. "The other parties now have the task of cornering the AfD in direct parliamentary debate."

Kramer added: "It is time to expose the dull and nationalist slogans for what they are: an attack on everything that has made our country strong and liveable."

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