Germany's SPD - Coalition with Merkel not automatic, all options open

Posted December 04, 2017

Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz on Friday denied an earlier report that his party was ready to start grand coalition talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Conservatives Union, but kept the options open.

"Regarding the formation of a new government, there was broad support for not ruling any option out", Schulz said at the SPD headquarters in Berlin. It was their worst-ever election performance in post-war German history, and many Social Democrats blamed the compromises the party made as part of the grand coalition that has governed Germany for the past four years.

In a sign of the ongoing friction between Schulz and Merkel's bloc that may make negotiations hard, he blamed the Bild report on a leak from her side and said he had telephoned her Friday to say it was "unacceptable".

Schulz said he had telephoned the CDU leader to say that any such claims from her conservatives to the media would be viewed as "a breach of trust".

With hopes of forming a majority government with former Free Democratic and Social Democratic parties still unclear and the opposition AfD now being the third biggest party in parliament, Angela Merkel may have to settle for a minority government or face snap elections.

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The SPD will hold a party congress in Berlin on December 7-9, where it is expected to debate its options.

Malu Dreyer, an SPD member and premier of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, said she was sceptical the SPD could agree a "convincing, substantive proposal" with conservatives.

Ahead of that congress, which will also decide whether to re-elect Schulz as chief of the SPD, the party's top brass has been careful to tread softly regarding its options.

Merkel and Erdogan also spoke about the importance of cooperating against terror groups, including Kurdish rebels and agreed to increase discussions once a new German government is formed. "The fact we underlined today that we are prepared to enter such talks with the SPD shows that we're aiming to bring these talks to a successful conclusion".

"Giving Emmanuel Macron a positive answer will be a key element in every negotiation with the SPD", Mr Schulz was quoted as saying in an interview on Friday.