Merkel Takes Step Closer To German Coalition After SPD Vote

JOHN MACDOUGALL  AFP  Getty

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. Though unintended, this setting surrounding the leaders of the CDU, CSU and SPD conveyed visually how many Germans perceive a new Grand Coalition led by Merkel: a colourless, visionless and pragmatic "Weiter-So" (more of the same) based on reason but contradicting a widespread gut feeling that yearns for something new, something different. But, Nahles said, in the intermittent four years in opposition the SPD barely regained its strength, climbing "from 23 to just 25 percent". And almost four months into post-war Germany's longest political impasse, she's likely to emerge on top again for the time being — whatever happens.

Schulz on Sunday vowed to extract more concessions in the formal coalition talks.

The European Commission hailed the SPD's "yes" vote, with EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici praising the "sense of responsibility" shown by the Social Democrats.

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

It's Merkel's second attempt to form a government after her party won an inconclusive federal election in September. All SPD party members will vote by mail on a final coalition deal if there is one. Now, members of Angela Merkel's conservatives are starting to look ahead to potential alternatives to lead their party and country.

Both options have significant consequences for German and European politics.

A vote in favor would signal that Germany's political center is holding and point toward an exit from a deadlock that's held up policy-making in Europe.




He suggested his party's best chance at regaining support from its grassroots was through vigorously pursuing its policies from within government and not behaving as a "junior partner" to Merkel. Some Germans view a repeat of the old coalition (in diminished form) as emblematic of the waning power of the centre-right and the centre-left in general, and Ms. Merkel in particular.

Refusal by SPD delegates to hold further talks could lead to new elections or a minority government for the first time in Germany's post-war era.

When Mrs Merkel failed to negotiate a coalition with two smaller parties the Social Democrats changed their position. Schulz blamed Merkel for robbing the SPD of its identity while in coalition.

The parties' leaders are seen by many Germans and commentators as exhausted and bereft of new ideas. Particularly the youth wing of the party, the "Young Socialists" or "Jusos", have voiced vehement opposition to the notion of a new "grand coalition", fearing that their party could completely lose its individual profile and ability to govern alone.

Commentators say her struggles to form a new government have damaged her political standing and she is increasingly described as entering the twilight of her rule.

Family reunification: The current government (also a CDU/SPD "grand coalition") had suspended the right of refugees with a "limited protection status" to bring their families over. "Important decisions have to be made now - not in three, four, five years".

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