Merkel calls for compromise as East-West gap risks eroding Germany's social fabric

Chancellor Angela Merkel cautioned that finding common ground was key to counter the risk of populism.
Chancellor Angela Merkel cautioned that finding common ground was key to counter the risk of populism.PHOTO: DPA

LEIPZIG (BLOOMBERG) - Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a better exchange of ideas between different parts of Germany as social tensions in the former communist east look set to contribute to bruising electoral losses for the parties in her coalition.

Speaking after receiving an honorary degree from a university in Leipzig, where she was a student, Merkel cautioned that finding common ground was key to counter the risk of populism tearing at the country's social fabric.

"Without compromise, society cannot hold together," said the chancellor, who grew up in eastern Germany.

Her trip to Leipzig coincides with two state elections in Germany's east on Sunday (Sept 1).

In Brandenburg and Saxony, support for Merkel's Christian Democrats and her junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats, is expected to drop sharply amid high turnout for the far-right AfD party. The results could be another blow to Merkel's fragile government and lead to its collapse, creating political instability as Europe's largest economy faces the specter of recession.

While people in the east grappled with existential crises in the aftermath of reunification 30 years ago, the west was largely stable.

Merkel said people in the east and west need to understand each other's histories better in order to reach a "true understanding of one another for the future."