SPD congress clears leaders to talk coalitions with Angela Merkel

22 January, 2018, 02:21 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • JOHN MACDOUGALL  AFP  Getty

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.

Ralf Stegner - the deputy leader of the SPD - told Focus magazine his party would adopt a tougher approach in any new tie-up with conservatives after Merkel's party reneged on several key labour and pensions pledges during the last coalition government.

The far-right party made big gains in September's election, becoming Germany's third-biggest political force with 12.6 percent of the vote. If Mr Kühnert wins, it will plunge Germany into political chaos.

Schulz on Sunday vowed to extract more concessions in the formal coalition talks. If both sides agree on a final deal, the SPD must then seek a further endorsement from ordinary party members.

Last September's vote was notable for the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

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

Horst Seehofer - the leader of the Christian Democrats' (CDU) ally, the Christian Social Union - is calling on Angela Merkel and Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz to make sure that the talks between Merkel's CDU and Schulz's SPD are successful.

In his bid to draw the party behind the coalition talks, Schulz said any cabinet the SPD was a member of would be evenly divided between men and women.

The DGB Confederation of German Trade Unions - which represents some 6 million workers - said a blueprint agreed by the two political blocs would result in advances for workers. Mr Schulz, sounding hoarse after a week of lobbying delegates, said to loud applause at the packed World Conference Center in the former capital city.


On Thursday, at its last meeting before Sunday's crucial vote, the Berlin wing of Jusos was marvelling at the success of their campaign and discussing tactics over soft drinks.

In the election campaign, Schulz wavered between a fundamental critique of neoliberalism à la Jeremy Corbyn and a more pragmatic approach, between a critique of the Hartz IV reforms and an appraisal of the role these reforms played in providing the basis for the economic success of Germany.

The stakes could have scarcely been higher for Merkel as a "no" vote would have left her with the option of leading an unstable minority government - a prospect she has balked at - or face snap polls.

When Mrs Merkel failed to negotiate a coalition with two smaller parties the Social Democrats changed their position.

Of course, there is another possibility for Merkel and Seehofer besides forming a coalition with the European federalist and socialist Schulz: the CDU could form a minority government with, for instance, the classically liberal (conservative) FDP.

Who is Andrea Nahles, the new SPD leader in parliament?

SPD MPs are largely behind another grand coalition. Merkel emerged from that second-term government at the 2013 election with her party's best result in more than 20 years, while her coalition partners were punished.

Merkel has said she would run again for chancellor in the event of new elections.

Merkel welcomed the SPD's decision, saying she looked forward to intensive talks focused on reaching a conclusion which she hoped would take place in a sensible atmosphere.

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