Merkel, Schulz open to deal
She told the Mecklenburg-Lower Pomerania regional conference of her Christian Democrat Union (CDU) that “Germany must have a stable government, but one which also takes the country forward”.
After losing seats in the September 24 general election and a refusal from the Social Democrats (SPD) to form another “grand coalition,” Merkel approached two smaller parties, the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), to form a Bundestag majority. But the FDP pulled out of talks, blaming irreconcilable differences.
“We worked well together,” Merkel said. Under their coalition Germany had enjoyed the strongest labour market for decades and balanced budgets, while pensioners and families had benefited, she told delegates.
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is to host Merkel, SPD leader Martin Schulz and head of her Bavarian CSU sister party for a meeting on Thursday. Steinmeier has called on his former party colleague, Schulz, to end his opposition to working with Merkel again for the sake of German stability.
“We won’t be obstructionist for the sake of being obstructionist,” said SPD leader Martin Schulz, retreating from his earlier rejection of joining a governing alliance with Merkel.
The failed candidate for chancellor said there was “no automatic path” to forming a partnership which could take the form of a new coalition, or of cooperating with a CDU minority government. Schulz also said SPD’s members would have to approve any agreement.
Last week Merkel said she would rather fight another election instead of trying to govern as a minority government.
“Like in [inter-war] Weimar, the federal republic is now a multiparty system in which extreme parties have begun to paralyse the working of the parliamentary democracy,” argued Stephen Szabo, a scholar of US-German relations.
Merkel said her priorities were to maintain Germany’s solid finances, cut some taxes and expand the digital infrastructure.
Many SPD members fear that going back into government with Merkel would be politically damaging after the party suffered its worst result since 1933 in September.
There have been calls from SPD members for commitments on investment in education and housing.
“Mrs Merkel is not in a position to be setting conditions,” Malu Dreyer, state premier of Rhineland Palatinate, was quoted saying by the Trierscher Volksfreund.
A coalition might be taking shape. Picture credit: Flickr