Merkel seeks a 'strong' coalition partner

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made the first contact with the main opposition Social Democrats (SPD) for a possible governing coalition

Merkel seeks a 'strong' coalition partner

World Bulletin/News Desk

Chancellor Angela Merkel has begun her task of forming a new German coalition government following her victory on Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

The first indications show that despite her triumph, Merkel would likely to face long and difficult talks with potential partners.

The German chancellor has made the first contact with the main opposition Social Democrats (SPD) on Monday.

"Germany needs a strong government," she said, excluding the option of a minority government and adding that they are also open to coalition talks also with the Green party.

Merkel’s CDU/CSU alliance won 311 seats at the federal parliament, or Bundestag, just 5 seats short of an absolute majority. SPD has 192, and the Greens 63.

For a strong coalition government, Merkel needs the SPD. The main opposition party currently dominates the Bundesrat, the upper house of the German parliament. Various key laws had already been vetoed by the Bundesrat, due to opposition by the Social Democrats and the Greens.

SPD shows reluctance

SPD’s leader Sigmar Gabriel said on Monday that "there's no automatic process leading towards a grand coalition” with Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc. The SPD will continue its inter-party discussion this week and is likely to decide on the negotiation positions on Friday.

While SPD and Merkel’s CDU/CSU ruled the country between 2005 and 2009, disagreements on key topics shows that there will be long and difficult talks ahead.

Merkel’s austerity-focused approach to overcome the crisis in the Eurozone had long been criticized by the SPD. Social Democrats have long called for pro-growth measures and steps towards to increase the employment.

Chancellor Merkel underlined on Monday that CDU/CSU’s victory on Sunday’s election shows the public approval of their policies on European problems and they will continue this course in the next period.

CDU opposes Turkey’s EU membership

German Christian Democrats and Social Democrats also disagree on Turkey’s EU membership process. While SPD gives a strong support for Turkey’s EU membership bid, Christian Democrats are against a full membership perspective. But Merkel led CDU/CSU had agreed in 2005- during talks with the SPD on a coalition government- that the EU accession talks with Turkey should continue in an "open-ended" way, without a pledge for full membership.

Another disagreement between the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats is on "dual-citizenship". SPD supports giving "dual-citizenship" right to all Turkish immigrants living in Germany, and this has been one of the key promises of the SPD politicians during their election campaign.

Turks are the largest immigrant group in Germany at close to 3 million. The number of the German-Turkish voters is estimated to be around 700 thousand.  Among the 5 of the 192 SPD deputies who won seats at the parliament on Sunday’s election are of Turkish origin.

Christian Democrats had long opposed dual-citizenship right to Turkish immigrants which they argue would undermine integration of immigrants to German society. A dual-citizenship had long been a key demand of the Turkish immigrants and it would substantially increase their political representation.

CDU/CSU and SPD also disagree on finance policies. The Social Democrats want a national minimum wage and call for higher taxes on the wealthy German citizens. Christian Democrats oppose these demands.

Media reports also indicate that Social Democrats want two key posts in the next coalition, the ministry of foreign affairs and the finance ministry.

As many Social Democrats want to see their party as the 'decision maker' rather than a 'passive ratifier' in the next coalition government, a grand coalition between the CDU/CSU and the SPD is far from being inevitable.

The North Rhine-Westphalian Prime Minister Hannelore Kraft, one of the strong leaders of the SPD, signaled on Monday that they may also opt for staying in the opposition. “Democracy also needs a strong, vibrant opposition,” she stressed.

A coalition with the Greens?

Chancellor Angela Merkel also has the option of forming a coalition government with the Greens who has 63 seats at the federal parliament.

But CDU’s sister party, the Bavarian CSU is strongly opposing the formation of a coalition government with the Greens. CSU leader Horst Seehofer said on Tuesday that they are not willing to begin any coalition talks with the Green party.

But several key figures from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) are supporting coalition talks with the Green Party. Armin Laschet, the Vice President of the CDU, told German media that their party should be open to talks with the Greens to see whether they can have a better harmony with them on a government program, compared with the SPD.

Claudia Roth, the outgoing co-chairwoman of the German Greens said that a coalition with the CDU/CSU does not seem very likely, but still they are open to talks with all the democratic parties.

The main opposition SPD could win a majority at the parliament with forming a three-party coalition with the Greens and the anti-capitalist Left party, but that option is also seen very unlikely. Social Democrats have ruled out working with the Left at a federal level.

Last Mod: 24 Eylül 2013, 16:15
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