Make-or-break vote on Merkel coalition talks

22 January, 2018, 02:21 | Author: Chad Mckenzie
  • Merkel’s rare loss of poise during a set-piece appearance with a foreign leader underscored what a nuisance Kurz has become for her | Clemens Bilan  EPA

After five hours of uncharacteristic sniping and emotion, Germany's Social Democrats at a party congress in Bonn on Sunday voted 362-279 to enter into formal talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel to form a new German government.

On 21 January, members of the German Social Democrats (SPD) will vote on whether to move to the next stage of talks over the formation of a grand coalition between the SPD and Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU. Together, the vote share won by the CDU/CSU and the SPD fell by 13 percentage points over the 2013 election.

A negative vote by the SPD would prolong Germany's political deadlock. She called for the talks to be wrapped up by mid-February.

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

Merkel's decision in 2015 to allow in large numbers of asylum-seekers caused major political friction and boosted the nationalist Alternative for Germany party, which past year became the third-largest in parliament after campaigning on a shrill anti-migration and anti-Merkel message.

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A new GroKo remains unwanted by the SPD party's young members and is largely unpopular among Germans.

Social Democratic Party head Martin Schulz, lawmakers and key labor chiefs lobbied the 600 delegates over the past week to back the leadership's proposal to begin formal coalition talks, saying the party can achieve more if it stays in government. The deal they are voting on has the potential to topple both Merkel and SPD leader Martin Schulz. Instead, virtually none of the leading German politicians demonstrated true leadership in the months prior and following the elections in September.

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

Delegates were set to vote on the talks late Sunday afternoon. So what obstacles is Germany facing in forming this coalition?

If a coalition is unable to be formed, the government is left with two options: hold another nationwide vote, or create a minority government, something that has not occurred in the nation since before World War II.

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"Germany and France can and should take the lead on many European questions and therefore I understand France's impatience for us to form a new government".

However Merkel's subsequent attempts to form an alternative coalition with Germany's environmentalist Green party and the pro-business liberal Free Democrats broke down late previous year after the liberals complained that their policies were at risk of being ignored in a Merkel-led coalition.

"Any government the SPD takes part in, regardless of what coalition, must be an SPD government", Schulz said. In the past few days, the SPD state associations in Berlin (23 delegates) and Saxony-Anhalt (six) spoke out against a renewal of the grand coalition.

"In this way, we are doing so that we can be guided by the fundamental idea of the Elysee Treaty to unite our citizens and make our cooperation clear to everyone", said Merkel and Macron in a statement. If SPD delegates fail to approve this agreement, Germany would be put on the path towards a repeat Bundestag election, an outcome without precedent in Germany's postwar history.

The case for another four years of CDU/CSU-SPD government is further strengthened by Germany's current economic fortunes.

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