Merkel CDU agrees to seek a grand coalition in Germany


BERLIN (Reuters) – The leaders of Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party agreed on Sunday to seek a "grand coalition" with the Social Democrats (SPD) to break the political stalemate in Europe's largest economy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a press conference after a summit of the Eastern Partnership at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on November 24, 2017. REUTERS / Eric Vidal

Merkel, whose fourth The mandate was questioned a week ago when the tripartite coalition talks with the Free Democrats (FDP) and Greens collapsed, the SPD handed him a political life preserver on Friday.

Under intense pressure to preserve stability and avoid new elections, the SPD reversed its position and agreed to speak with Merkel, raising the prospect of a new grand coalition, which has governed for the past four years, or a minority government.

"We firmly intend to have an effective government," Daniel Guenther, the conservative prime minister of the state of Schleswig Holstein, told reporters after a four-hour meeting of prominent members of the Christian Democrats of Merkel (CDU). .

"We firmly believe that this is not a minority government, it is an alliance with a parliamentary majority, that is a great coalition," he said.

The meeting came after the Conservative prime minister of Bavaria supported a new alliance from right to left.

"An alliance of conservatives and SPD is the best option for Germany, better than a coalition with the Free Democrats and Greens, new elections or a minority government," said Horst Seehofer, head of the Bavarian CSU, to Bild am Sonntag

An Emnid poll also showed on Sunday that 52 percent of Germans backed a grand coalition.

Several European leaders have emphasized the importance of quickly establishing a stable German government so that the bloc can discuss its future, including the proposals of French President Emmanuel Macron on reforms in the euro zone and Brexit.

Merkel, who made clear on Saturday that she would seek a grand coalition, says an interim government under her leadership can do business until a new coalition is formed.

The youth wing of Merkel's conservatives pressured the parties to make a deal before Christmas, and told them that if there was no agreement, conservatives should opt for a minority government.

However, in an indication that the process will take time, the CDU agreed on Sunday afternoon to delay a conference in mid-December that had to vote on the tripartite coalition.

The Bavarian Prime Minister and head of the Christian Social Union (CSU) Horst Seehofer arrives for a press conference at the CSU headquarters after a meeting of the board in Munich, Germany, November 23, 2017. REUTERS / Michael Dalder

The SPD The Prime Minister of the state of Lower Saxony said he feared that a decision could not be made this year. "It's a long road for the SPD," said Stephan Weil on ARD television.

Merkel is against going the route of a minority government because of its inherent instability, but experts have said that one possibility is that conservatives and Greens form a minority government with informal support from the SPD. The Greens have said they are open to a minority government.


Even before the talks begin, the two blocs have begun to discuss policy priorities.

Merkel, whose conservatives won the majority of parliamentary seats in a vote on September 24 but blew support for the far right, has said she wants to maintain sound finances in Germany, cut some taxes and invest in digital infrastructure.

She has to keep Bavaria's CSU on board by following a stricter immigration policy that can also help recover conservatives who switched to the Far Right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The SPD needs a platform for its policies after its poorest election since 1933. The main figures of the SPD have outlined conditions that include investment in education and homes, changes in health insurance and no cap on asylum seekers .

Most experts believe that the SPD has the strongest hand and several prominent economists said they expected the SPD to exert significant influence on a new grand coalition.

"If there is a big coalition or even if there is tolerance (of a minority government) I would expect more emphasis on the SPD program," Clemens Fuest, president of the Ifo Institute, told the financial newspaper Handelsblatt.

That would mean more state spending and smaller tax cuts than would have been agreed with other potential partners.

The SPD is divided, and some members argue that a grand coalition has had its day.

The SPD prime minister of the Rhineland Palatinate state, Malu Dreyer, said he preferred the idea that the SPD "tolerate" a minority government over a grand coalition, making it clear that the party would not accept an agreement to any price.

Report by Andreas Rinke and Madeline Chambers; Edition by David Goodman and Peter Cooney

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