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German Social Democrats under pressure to form grand coalition


The leader of Germany’s Social Democrats came under growing pressure on Thursday to drop his opposition to a new “grand coalition” with Angela Merkel’s conservatives, with senior politicians arguing the party had a duty to promote stability, APA reports quoting Reuters.

 

Merkel is facing the biggest political crisis of her career since efforts to forge a three-way coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and Greens collapsed last weekend. That has raised worries across Europe of a prolonged leadership vacuum in the continent’s economic powerhouse.

 

The Social Democrats (SPD) have governed in coalition under Merkel since 2013. But leader Martin Schulz said the party must heed the will of voters by going into opposition after achieving its worst result of the postwar period in the Sept. 24 election.

 

Pressure is growing on the party to revisit his decision, either by agreeing to prop up a conservative-led minority government by not voting against it, or by forming a renewed coalition.

 

In either case, the position of Schulz as party leader could become untenable. If changing course and teaming up with the conservatives requires a change of leadership at the SPD, that would be unlikely before a party conference on Dec. 7-9.

 

Schulz held a lengthy meeting with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a former SPD lawmaker and foreign minister, on Thursday afternoon before heading to party headquarters to consult senior party members. Steinmeier is trying to help facilitate a coalition government and avoid fresh elections.

 

“We will talk about if and how one can get a federal government in Germany,” a senior SPD member said ahead of the meeting, adding that one option on the table was to support Merkel only indirectly by not blocking a minority government.

 

But Stephan Weil, the SPD premier of the state of Lower Saxony, one of the party’s most influential figures after he defied polls by winning re-election this year, implied a full coalition would preferable to a minority government.

 

“Minority governments are fragile constructs,” he told the RND newspaper consortium. The SPD had to chart a path between a party rank-and-file reluctant to repeat the bruising experience of a grand coalition and its democratic obligations.

 

“Everyone understands that the stakes are high, involving the stability of an extremely important member of the European Union,” he added.

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