German parties eye Scholz-led govt by early December

German Finance Minister and SPD candidate for the Chancellery Olaf Scholz in Berlin, on Sept 20, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (AFP) - The three parties working to form Germany's next coalition government said on Thursday (Oct 21) they were aiming for Finance Minister Olaf Scholz from the Social Democrats to be installed as chancellor in the week of Dec 6.

"The timeline is ambitious," said Mr Volker Wissing, general secretary of the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), at the start of formal coalition talks with the centre-left SPD and the Greens.

"Germany needs to have a stable government as soon as possible," he added.

The three parties, which have never before teamed up together on a federal level in Germany, said they wanted the coalition negotiations to be wrapped up by the end of November.

This would allow for a government to be in place early December, with Mr Scholz to be elected chancellor by the Bundestag lower house of parliament "in the week of December 6", Mr Wissing said.

The three parties had earlier aimed for a Christmas deadline, signalling they were optimistic about clinching a deal despite not being natural bedfellows.

If they succeed in sticking to the faster timeframe, Chancellor Angela Merkel will fall short of breaking Helmut Kohl's record as the longest-serving leader in post-war Germany.

Dr Merkel herself is bowing out after 16 years in power but will stay on in a caretaker capacity until the new government is in place.

Her conservative CDU-CSU alliance slumped to its worst-ever result in the September 26 general election, leaving the bloc preparing for a stint on the opposition benches.

However, CDU leader and chancellor hopeful Armin Laschet has said he remains open to trying to form a government should the Scholz-led effort fail.

But the SPD, Greens and FDP have voiced confidence they can build what they have called a "coalition of progress".

Green party general secretary Michael Kellner said Germany had a chance "at a new start for the first time in 16 years".

Negotiators from the three parties will now split up across 22 working groups to come up with what will be the basis for a coalition agreement.

They will be working from an in-principle agreement struck last week, which sketched out the major policy priorities for the next four years.

It includes massive investments in climate protection, infrastructure and education to help Europe's top economy prepare for a greener and more digital future.

With pledges to respect Germany's debt limits and not raise taxes, it remains to be seen however how the plans will be financed.

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