Published: Mon, January 22, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Germany's Social Democrats Party Votes For Formal Coalition Talks With Merkel

Germany's Social Democrats Party Votes For Formal Coalition Talks With Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel took another step along the long and tortuous road to forming a new government on Sunday, when Social Democrats (SPD) agreed to coalition talks with her conservatives, four months after inconclusive elections.

A new poll by broadcaster ZDF showed that 64 percent of Germans - and 75 percent of SPD members - expect SPD delegates to approve further talks with Merkel's conservatives.

The SPD leadership, which unanimously backs entering a "grand coalition" with centre-right parties (the so-called GroKo), and the youth wing of the party (the Jusos) were making last-ditch scrambles for support on Saturday among the 600 delegates eligible to vote at a special party conference in Bonn.

The same poll found that the SPD would score just 18 percent if elections were held now, below the 20.5 percent garnered in September. In Germany, the politician that is often compared to Macron is Christian Lindner, leader of the liberal FDP and the figure who announced the failure of the Jamaica coalition. Wrapped up with some hollow phrases about "peace" and more "social justice", the 28-page document calls for a continuation and intensification of the policies of militarism at home and overseas, and social cuts.

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

In the case of a new grand coalition, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) will become the biggest opposition party in the Bundestag.

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

Many voters were unhappy with the decision to continue coalition talks, noting SPD leader Martin Schulz failed to produce any truly Social Democratic policies in the first round of negotiations. At the moment, there is no effective German government, meaning nothing significant can be approved within Germany or the EU.

A vote in favor would signal that Germany's political center is holding and point toward an exit from a deadlock that's held up policy-making in Europe.

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The vote is expected later Sunday.

In the election campaign, Schulz wavered between a fundamental critique of neoliberalism à la Jeremy Corbyn and a more pragmatic approach, between a critique of the Hartz IV reforms and an appraisal of the role these reforms played in providing the basis for the economic success of Germany.

Attention now shifts to Merkel and fellow leaders of her CDU, who were due to meet in Berlin later Sunday to assess the outcome of the vote.

"Germany and France can and should take the lead on many European questions and therefore I understand France's impatience for us to form a new government".

"It is likely now that there will be this Grand Coalition", Brux said.

Andrea Roemmele, professor for communication in politics at Hertie School of Governance, said the close result was hard for Schulz, who led the party to its worst election result last September since Germany became a federal republic in 1949.

"Germany (may) have to form a new government", said sophomore Quinn Candelaria.

Merkel and CDU-CSU leaders have so far ruled out any changes to the agreement that was reached during exploratory talks with the SPD, which ended on January 12.

Schmidt caused worldwide controversy and a major row in Germany's government coalition in November by unexpectedly backing a European Union Commission proposal to permit use of glyphosate for the next five years despite a heated debate over whether it causes cancer.

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