BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and her defeated election rivals the centre-left Social Democrats agreed yesterday to launch formal talks to build a “grand coalition” government.
Such a left-right alliance ruling Europe’s biggest economy would have a strong parliamentary majority and be able to drive through policy against the opposition of the two smaller parties, the ecologist Greens and the far-left Linke.
The deal to embark on thorny negotiations on policy and haggling over ministerial posts, likely from next Wednesday, came almost a month after Merkel’s party triumphed in September 22 elections but missed out on a clear majority to form her third-term government.
“We have noted commonalities, we have noted differences and we have seen there is mutual trust,” said conservative negotiator Alexander Dobrindt, the general secretary of Merkel’s Bavarian allies the Christian Social Union.
Sigmar Gabriel, the leader of the Social Democrats (SPD), signalled that the traditional party of working class Germany would drive a hard bargain in helping Merkel back into power, especially on its core demand for a minimum wage.
Emerging from a meeting, he said Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) “knows that a general minimum wage of ¤8.50 ($11.5) is a central demand without which a grand coalition with the SPD wouldn’t make any sense”.
He said the seven-member SPD delegation had agreed unanimously that talks should go ahead and would take this proposal to a party meeting on Sunday, while the conservatives were to hold a party committee telephone conference today. AFP