Merkel to meet SPD for talks on possible coalition

Leader of the Social Democrats wins party's approval for 'open-ended talks' to end Germany's political stand-off

BERLIN • German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet leaders of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) on Wednesday after it gave the green light to exploratory talks on ending the country's political stand-off.

SPD parliamentary group leader Andrea Nahles told German radio yesterday that she would join the meeting with SPD leader Martin Schulz, who has called for a "United States of Europe" by 2025.

The head of Dr Merkel's Bavarian sister party, Mr Horst Seehofer, will also attend the talks with Ms Nahles' conservative counterparts in Parliament.

At a fractious party congress on Thursday, Mr Schulz won members' approval for "open-ended" talks that could lead to either a new right-left "grand coalition", a Merkel minority government or, if negotiations fail, new elections.

Ten weeks after an inconclusive general election left German politics deadlocked, Mr Schulz had pleaded with his party to give its blessing for such talks, promising to push key demands including improving social welfare and strengthening the European Union.

Mr Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament, vowed to extract a high price if the SPD supports Dr Merkel's bid to lead Europe's biggest economy for a fourth term from early next year. He was later re-elected party chief with almost 82 per cent of the vote.

  • 70%

    The majority of Germans expect a grand coalition to form, a Forsa poll for broadcaster ZDF showed.

    47%

    Almost half of Germans would be happy with such an alliance.

    36%

    Around one-third disapproved of another conservative alliance, which would make the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) the biggest opposition party.

The SPD motion said the party was "aware of its responsibility to our country" and "not indifferent" to whether a new government is formed, but pledged that any government that emerges must drive forward "the fundamental renewal of Europe".

Ms Nahles said yesterday the SPD would start the negotiations in a constructive spirit but added that the result of the talks remains open and a "grand coalition" between the SPD and conservatives was no foregone conclusion.

She said the SPD had laid out key points, including getting rid of Germany's two-tier public and private health system - an idea the conservatives oppose.

Dr Merkel, who has been at the helm in Germany for 12 years, hopes the SPD will agree to a re-run of the grand coalition that has governed Germany for the last four years. Their coalition remains in place as a caretaker government.

She was forced to turn to the SPD after talks with the environmentalist Greens and liberal Free Democrats (FDP) on a three-way alliance collapsed.

The majority of Germans (70 per cent) expect a grand coalition to form, a Forsa poll for broadcaster ZDF showed yesterday. It found almost half of Germans (47 per cent) would be happy with such an alliance. Around one-third (36 per cent) disapproved of another conservative alliance, which would make the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) the biggest opposition party.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on , with the headline 'Merkel to meet SPD for talks on possible coalition'. Print Edition | Subscribe