BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces a new headache after her search for a coalition partner turned into a one-horse race yesterday, forcing her to haggle with the emboldened Social Democrats.
The Greens politely bowed out of further talks with Merkel’s conservatives overnight, citing irreconcilable differences, leaving the Social Democrats (SPD) as Merkel’s only potential partner, which will allow them to drive a harder bargain.
In fact, analysts say, SPD leaders will have to extract a high price on policy issues and ministerial posts to convince their sceptical rank-and-file members that the party should govern jointly with Merkel in a left-right ‘grand coalition’.
“The collapse of the conservative-Greens talks has strengthened the SPD’s negotiating position,” said political scientist Nils Diederich of Berlin’s Free University. “But they are under massive pressure from their base to win concessions in different areas,” he said, mentioning their demand for a national minimum wage, changes to European policy and more help for political refugees.
In September 22 elections, Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and their Bavarian allies the CSU scored a decisive victory. However, their ballot box triumph was soured by the fact that they fell just five seats short of a ruling majority after their previous junior partners, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), crashed out of parliament.
This has forced Merkel into a lengthy process of political horse-trading with potential allies that could drag on for many weeks. The CDU/CSU has held two rounds of preliminary talks with each party and is set to meet the SPD again today at 1100 GMT.