German govt rivals woo liberals as election looms

Germany's ruling conservatives and Social Democrats began courting the liberal Free Democrats on Saturday.

German govt rivals woo liberals as election looms

Germany's ruling conservatives and Social Democrats began courting the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) on Saturday, both singling them out as a potential coalition partner after a national election due next September.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the Social Democrats' (SPD) candidate for chancellor, led the charm offensive. He said his party had no real desire to remain in its awkward coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives.

"We in the SPD would like to be in a red-green coalition at federal level, but we also think a 'traffic light' combination with the FDP is a potential way to govern the country well," he said, referring to a potential SPD-FDP-Greens partnership.

"This time, (FDP leader) Guido Westerwelle will have to lead his party in government after the election," Steinmeier added in an interview with the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

In Germany's previous federal government, the SPD ruled with the Greens. Merkel's conservatives and the SPD formed a 'grand coalition' after the last federal election in 2005 left neither with a majority.

The centre-left SPD has found itself squeezed between Merkel's compassionate conservatism on the right and a rising new far-left party led by ex-SPD chief Oskar Lafontaine.

Opinion polls show the SPD trails Merkel's conservatives by double-digits and would not have enough support to form a coalition with the Greens if an election were held now.

However, recent polls show the conservatives and FDP would have enough, or almost enough, votes to form a coalition.

Ronald Pofalla, general secretary of Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), said the FDP was his party's preferred coalition partner once the federal election is over.

"The Union (CDU) is quite clearly aiming for a coalition with the FDP," he told the Rheinische Post newspaper.

Steinmeier, who has criticised Merkel's response to the financial crisis, was also keen to form a new coalition after the election.

"The continuation of the grand coalition was not on my Christmas wish list," he said.

Reuters
Last Mod: 27 Aralık 2008, 19:57
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