German coalition talks likely to continue longer

Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats (SPD) are set to meet on Friday for their first exploratory talks

German coalition talks likely to continue longer

World Bulletin/News Desk

The formation of a new German coalition government is likely to take longer, as parties continue their maneuvering to increase pressure among their potential coalition partners for compromise.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and their traditional rival Social Democrats are set to meet on Friday for their first exploratory talks despite their deep differences on key policy issues such as increasing tax rates for the wealthy and introducing minimum-wage.

A recent poll published on Tuesday by Forsa showed that nearly half of Germans want Merkel’s CDU/CSU to make compromise on increasing tax rates for forming a coalition government with the SPD. Forty-eight percent of Germans said that they would not see tax increases of a possible conservative-left coalition government as a "breach of election promises". But 45 percent of those surveyed said that they would regard a change in CDU/CSU policy on tax rates as an "election fraud".

Social Democrats still reluctant

SPD has continued its reluctant attitude ahead of Friday's talks as the party base is largely skeptical towards a Merkel-led government. 

"It can be presumed that these talks will take a long time," SPD general secretary Andrea Nahles said on Monday, referring to differences on a number of key topics.

"We may eventually end up with the formation of the government in December or January," Nahles stressed, on the condition of an agreement and its approval by the party members. 

SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel earlier stressed any preliminary agreement with the CDU/CSU has to be approved by the 470 thousand members of the SPD.

SPD’s Vice Chairman Manuela Schwesig told the German daily Rheinische Post on Tuesday that the Social Democrats are behind their election promise for higher tax for the wealthy and added that with this measure they will be able to raise financial sources for investment in the education and the infrastructure.

Merkel signal talks with Greens

As the SPD leaders have shown little enthusiasm for comprise so far, Merkel’s CDU has signaled also readiness to talk also with the Greens.

Hermann Groehe, the general secretary of the CDU, told reporters that they are planning to invite the Greens to preliminary talks next week.

The Green Party won 63 seats at the September 22 election and a possible coalition with them will enable Merkel’s CDU/CSU alliance to gain absolute majority at Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament. 

But for a stable and strong government, Chancellor Merkel still needs the support of the SPD .The main opposition party SPD currently dominates the Bundesrat, the upper house of the parliament.

The leading figures of the Greens are also not speaking with one voice on a possible coalition with Merkel’s CDU/CSU alliance.

Anton Hofreiter, parliamentary group leader of the party, expressed readiness on Tuesday for possible talks with the Christian Democrats. But Katrin Göring-Eckhardt, one of the Green Party's two top candidates in the 22 September election, expressed skepticism. She said that possible talks with the CDU/CSU are highly unlikely to be successful.

- SPD warns against ‘parallel talks’

European Parliament President Martin Schulz, a key member of the SPD’s executive committee, warned Christian Democrats on Tuesday against launching "parallel talks" with the Greens.

"The CDU/CSU should decide with whom they want to hold serious coalition negotiations," Schulz told public broadcaster Deutschlandradio, adding that the Christian Democrats needed the support of Social Democrats for a "stable majority" at the parliament.

"Now it is up to CDU/CSU to come up with some substantial offers," Schulz said, stressing that the SPD will now focus on Friday's meeting and they expect concrete proposals on the content.

President Gauck met Merkel

As uncertainty over the formation of a coalition government continued for more than a week after the 22 September election, President Joachim Gauck has invited party leaders to face to face talks this week at the official residence Schloss Bellevue.

On Monday, Gauck met Chancellor Merkel and he was set to meet SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel on Wednesday.

According to the German constitution, the president has a largely ceremonial and supervisory role. But he has to be consulted for a possible "minority government" and he is the only person who can dissolve the German parliament and call for early elections.

In the event of a failure in coalition talks and Chancellor Merkel’s preference for a minority government, President Gauck has the right to either appoint the chancellor or dissolve the Bundestag, triggering a new election.

Last Mod: 01 Ekim 2013, 22:17
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