Published: Mon, January 22, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

SPD congress backs coalition talks with Merkel

SPD congress backs coalition talks with Merkel

A divided SPD agreed at a party conference in the former West German capital of Bonn to lay aside their misgivings about rejoining a Merkel-led government, with 56.4% of delegates backing coalition talks to avert the threat of fresh elections in Europe's biggest economy.

The vote outcome was far from certain after leading SPD members savaged a coalition blueprint thrashed out by the three parties this month, complaining the 28-page document contained too many concessions on issues such as migration, taxes and healthcare.

A Forsa poll published on Thursday showed the SPD slipping to 18 percent, below the 20.5 percent it achieved in September's election.

A coalition that smacks of desperation and political fatigue is on the verge of ruling Germany again.

Speaking to the BBC, Dempsey points to French President Emmanuel Macron's speech at Paris-Sorbonne University in September, when he called for more European Union integration in the eurozone, and in defence, migration and other areas.

Now, the SPD aims to negotiate an improved coalition deal it can sell to members wary of acting as junior partner to Merkel.

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Kurz came to power after taking over the conservative People's Party (OeVP) previous year and yanking it to the right, with a hardline stance on immigration.

Behind the Jusos' battle cry of "No to gro-ko" is the fear that the SPD could suffer the same fate as the Socialist Party in France, or PASOK in Greece, if they continue their war and austerity policies in a renewed coalition with the Union.

A year ago, Gabriel stood aside as SPD leader in favour of Martin Schulz (62). It's also helps to explain why party officials across the political spectrum view the third option with a sense of trepidation.

"Europe is waiting for a Germany that knows its responsibility for Europe and act decisively", Schulz added.

Sunday's SPD vote is an immediate hurdle. So what obstacles is Germany facing in forming this coalition?

Clearly, Merkel agrees that CDU and SPD must form a new government.

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The parties' leaders are seen by many Germans and commentators as exhausted and bereft of new ideas.

It argues that the ailing SPD, led by the embattled Martin Schulz, needs a stint in opposition to renew itself, not another four years languishing in Ms. Merkel's shadow.

Elections last September confirmed Mrs Merkel's position as Chancellor for a fourth term.

Stung by his party's worst result in decades, Schulz initially vowed to go into opposition but then caved to pressure to reconsider after Merkel's attempt at a novel tie-up with two smaller parties collapsed in November.

In the preliminary grand coalition deal, Schulz sees the first steps to a new kind of politics: looser German purse-strings for overdue investment in schools, roads, digital infrastructure, as well as guaranteed pensions and improved pay for a growing army of old-age carers. This is precisely why some SPD members are concerned about going into a new grand coalition.

Merkel has made clear that she doesn't want a minority government — an arrangement that would require her to break with her consensual style and cobble together majorities on a case-by-case basis.

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That's because the rank and file of the SPD will decide on January 21 whether to commence formal negotiations for another CDU/CSU-SPD coalition. State governments are functioning as normal and remain able to make decisions on a local level.

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