Sunday, 16 December, 2018

The Newest: German Social Dems vote to enter coalition…

Kurz ended a two-day visit to Berlin on Thursday| Michele Tantussi  Getty Images Kurz ended a two-day visit to Berlin on Thursday| Michele Tantussi Getty Images
Andrew Cummings | 22 January, 2018, 02:21

Germany's center-left Social Democrats (SPD) decided on Sunday to start formal coalition talks with Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU). The CSU leader even explained in the interview that he's not swayed by polls showing that the Grand Coalition can barely count on 50 percent support among voters. Together, the vote share won by the CDU/CSU and the SPD fell by 13 percentage points over the 2013 election.

They have been anxiously awaiting the return to action of economic and political heavyweight Germany, hoping to see a government emerge that will unblock key European Union reforms.

Speaking to the BBC, Dempsey points to French President Emmanuel Macron's speech at Paris-Sorbonne University in September, when he called for more European Union integration in the eurozone, and in defence, migration and other areas.

The vote, which was closely watched in Germany and overseas, paves the way for negotiators to launch in-depth negotiations this week.

Last September's vote was notable for the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

Despite positive results, the opposition to a coalition with the conservatives remains strong within the SPD.

An SPD party vote rejecting the coalition accord could end Schulz's year-long leadership of the SPD and throw into doubt Merkel's political future, after she failed in November at her first attempt to form a coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats and the environmental Greens.

In his bid to draw the party behind the coalition talks, Schulz said any cabinet the SPD was a member of would be evenly divided between men and women.

Ahead of the vote, SPD leader Martin Schulz told delegates he would push for more concessions from the conservatives on labour, health and migration policies.

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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.

The state with the most SPD delegates-NRW with 144 delegates-will not hold a formal vote in advance of Sunday's congress.

"The coalition talks are going to be just as hard as the exploratory talks", said Schulz.

"A "No" wouldn't lead to chaos, it would lead to democracy", she shot back in a brief speech, as many in the crowd cheered. Put another way, the German economy has remained resilient in the face of uncertain political conditions, and economic growth has been helped rather than hindered by the previous grand coalition.

"The choice is coalition negotiations or new elections", Schulz told a convention of 600 delegates who convened in the old West German capital on Sunday to decide the party's course.

In September, his party achieved its worst election result since Germany became a federal republic in 1949 and many within the SPD think renewing the "grand coalition" could further weaken the party.

Mrs Merkel and Mr Macron said they had agreed to draw up a new treaty this year. Up to a third of delegates are thought to still be undecided. Yet surveys also suggest her struggle to build a government and the prospect of another grand coalition of the two biggest parties is diminishing her standing.

If a minority government isn't installed, a decision that would be made by Germany's president, Merkel has indicated that she would run again in a new election.

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