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

Violet Powell
December 3, 2017

A visibly irritated Social Democratic chairman Martin Schulz took to the podium in Berlin on Friday to deny that his party was ready to officially begin talks with conservatives toward forming a new grand coalition government.

Bild daily reported earlier on Friday that the SPD had greenlighted coalition talks after discussions among Schulz, Christian Democratic Union's (CDU) leader Angela Merkel and Christian Social Union (CSU) leader Horst Seehofer on Thursday evening.

The CDU board had agreed that the party was ready to conduct "serious talks" with the SPD on the formation of a government.

The SPD, which had wanted to go into opposition to rebuild after suffering its worst post-World War Two election result, fears its distinctive identity and policy ideas will again be smothered in any tie-up with Merkel's bigger centre-right bloc.

Sources in the SPD said all options would be discussed - ranging from a re-run of the grand coalition with the conservatives to new Europe's largest economy.

"Whoever circulates false reports destroys trust", he said.

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Speaking after Schulz's statement, CDU chief executive Klaus Schüler said his party respected what the SPD chairman had to say and would wait for the Social Democrats to make a decision about whether to officially pursue talks.

"It's not automatic that there will be a new grand coalition", Schulz told reporters in Berlin. Merkel has said in the past she does not want to lead a minority government.

"We have a lot of options for building a government".

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.

The SPD will hold a party congress in Berlin on December 7-9, where it is expected to debate its options. By contrast, Steinmeier - himself a former SPD leader - is known to favor the grand coalition option.

According to Schulz, the key demands of his party are a need to reform the European Union, improve healthcare, as well as the European Union and answer French President Emmanuel Macron's Eurozone reform proposals positively.

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