Merkel seeks to form govt soon as SPD makes U-turn

Dr Angela Merkel speaking at a regional Christian Democratic Union party conference on Saturday, in Kuehlungsborn, Germany, her first major speech since coalition talks collapsed.
Dr Angela Merkel speaking at a regional Christian Democratic Union party conference on Saturday, in Kuehlungsborn, Germany, her first major speech since coalition talks collapsed.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Hopes of an end to political impasse with its former ally saying it is ready for talks

BERLIN • Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she wanted to form a government "very soon", bolstering hopes that Germany's political impasse could be close to ending as she raised the prospect of a compromise with the Social Democrats (SPD).

Europe's economic powerhouse has been mired in uncertainty since Dr Merkel's conservative bloc won a Sept 24 vote but without a clear majority.

"Europe needs a strong Germany... that's why it is important to form a government very soon," Dr Merkel said in a speech to regional representatives of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in Kuehlungsborn, north-east Germany, on Saturday. The speech came a day after the SPD said they were ready for talks with Dr Merkel's bloc.

The European Union has been worried by the German crisis, as Berlin plays a lead role in all matters including the Brexit negotiations.

The setbacks Dr Merkel's bloc suffered in the September election were in part due to the rise of the far-right, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) which took millions of votes from mainstream parties.

Since the vote, she has failed to find coalition partners to govern the EU's largest economy for her fourth term.

A coalition involving Dr Merkel's CDU and its Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union (CSU), together with the centre-left SPD is "the best option for Germany", said CSU head Horst Seehofer.

"An alliance between the conservatives and the SPD is the best option for Germany, better in any case than 'Jamaica', new elections or a minority government," Mr Seehofer told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. The failed three-way tie-up between the CDU/CSU, the Greens and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) had been dubbed "Jamaica" because the parties' colours match those of the Caribbean country's flag.

BEST OPTION

An alliance between the conservatives and the SPD is the best option for Germany, better in any case than 'Jamaica', new elections or a minority government.

CSU HEAD HORST SEEHOFER, referring to the failed three-way tie-up between the CDU/CSU, the Greens and the pro-business Free Democratic Party, which had been dubbed "Jamaica" because the parties' colours match those of the Caribbean country's flag.

The SPD - Dr Merkel's former junior coalition allies - vowed to go into opposition immediately after the election in which they scored a dismal result. But in a U-turn last Friday, SPD chief Martin Schulz said he was ready for talks with Dr Merkel's bloc.

Dr Merkel now faces few good options short of new elections: asking the SPD to enter a new "grand coalition", or running a minority government, possibly with the Greens, and asking the SPD to cooperate on an issue-by-issue basis.

For now, her caretaker government has continued to run the country's daily business.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, himself an SPD member, meanwhile has been working to ensure a compromise is reached, to avoid a repeat vote.

Talks with the SPD should be based "on mutual respect" and "compromise", Dr Merkel said.

She has been Chancellor of Germany since 2005. Dr Merkel and her party ruled alongside the SPD up to 2009 and then again from 2013 to this year.

Mr Steinmeier will on Thursday meet Dr Merkel and the leader of the CSU, Mr Seehofer, as well as SPD leader Martin Schulz, the European Parliament's former president.

Dr Merkel reiterated her opposition to a return to the polls. "We have received a mandate" from voters, she said.

Polls show that were Germany to stage an election re-run, results would be little different from September.

If anything, it could see the AfD score an even more impressive result than it did the first time round.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2017, with the headline 'Merkel seeks to form govt soon as SPD makes U-turn'. Print Edition | Subscribe