German President Summons Grand Coalition Partners For Talks

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BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) appeared close to dropping their opposition to renewing cooperation with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, with a planned summit between the two camps seemingly offering a way out of a political impasse.

Germany’s Social Democrats agreed on Friday, under intense pressure, to hold talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel on renewing their outgoing coalition government, but pledged that party members would have the final say on any deal.

The about-turn by the center-left SPD, which had said it would go into opposition after suffering its worst result in 70 years in September’s election, could help avert a disruptive repeat vote in Europe’s economic and political powerhouse.

SPD leader Martin Schulz told a news conference the party leadership had reached the decision out of a sense of responsibility to Germany and Europe after Merkel’s attempt to form a government with the pro-business Free Democrats and environmental Greens smaller parties collapsed on Sunday.

“There is nothing automatic about the direction we are moving in,” Schulz said. “If a discussion results in us deciding to participate, in any form whatsoever, in the formation of a government, we will put it to a vote of party members.”

Schulz told 300 members of the party’s youth wing – who rejected another “grand coalition” at a conference in Saarbruecken – that nothing had been decided.

But he suggested that governing could offer better chances to achieve his primary goal of improving the lives of people in Germany and around the world.

“From which position is that best possible? What is more important? The radiance of our decisions, or the improvement of the everyday lives of people?” Schulz told the group.

He said he noted the group’s position and thanked them for their support in the September election. But he said he expected their loyalty and “constructive cooperation” with whatever path was ultimately decided by the party’s leadership.

Backing for a new government could mean forming a coalition, agreeing not to obstruct a Merkel-led minority government, or other options yet to be explored, SPD deputy leader Ralf Stegner told broadcaster ZDF.

Rainer Haseloff, the premier of the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt and a member of Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU), told Reuters: “I think opinion is moving in the direction of there being a grand coalition.”

He said conservatives would look at the SPD’s proposals, but the bloc would not agree to any move to replace Merkel.

QUESTION OF WHEN, NOT IF

Juergin Trittin, a senior Greens member, told Germany’s RND newspaper group it was “a question of when, not if” the SPD would agree to discuss another coalition with conservatives.

Stegner, who is skeptical about another grand coalition, told broadcaster ZDF the SPD would extract a price for any deal. “The SPD won’t go cheaply,” he said, without elaborating.

Merkel spoke with reporters after an event in Brussels, but declined to answer any questions.

A poll conducted on Monday, before the latest SPD comments, showed half of Germans supported the SPD’s initial rejection of a new grand coalition, while 44 percent would support renewing the coalition government that has ruled for the past four years.

Six out of 10 Germans would support a new election, the poll by infratest dimap for broadcaster ARD showed.


Sourced From: Reuters: World News

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