Germany’s Social Democrats refuse to jump into bed with Merkel quickly | Reuters

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BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s Social Democrat Foreign Minister said his party would not be quick to agree to another grand coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives as party leaders met with the president in a bid to end the country’s political deadlock. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer, the head of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) arrive for talks hosted by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (R) with the leader of the Social Democrats (SPD) Martin Schulz, in Schloss Bellevue in Berlin, Germany, November 30, 2017. REUTERS/Guido Bergmann/BPA/Handout via REUTERS Merkel is casting around for a coalition partner after her centre-right bloc shed support to the far right in a Sept. 24 election and her attempts to form a three-way tie-up with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens failed. The SPD, which saw its participation in a Merkel-led coalition government from 2013-17 rewarded with its worst election result in German post-war history, had been strongly opposed to another “grand coalition”. But under pressure from President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, SPD leader Martin Schulz has signalled willingness to discuss a way out of the political impasse. SPD Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told broadcaster ZDF no one should expect his party – still ruling with the conservatives in a caretaker government – to immediately agree to join another grand coalition now that talks to form a three-way alliance have failed. “We’re now in a process orchestrated by the president, in which we first need to look at what the possibilities are but no one can expect it to go quickly,” he said, adding that it was up to the conservatives to show what they wanted. “The conservatives, Greens and FDP took months to get nothing off ground so I’d ask people not to put pressure on us,” he said, adding that the conservatives needed to make clear what they wanted. Steinmeier, a former SPD lawmaker and foreign minister, hosted a meeting on Thursday between Merkel, her Bavarian conservative ally Horst Seehofer and Schulz as part of his efforts to facilitate the formation of a stable government. The leader of the Social Democrats (SPD) Martin Schulz (R) arrives for talks hosted by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (L) with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer, the head of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) in Schloss Bellevue in Berlin, Germany, November 30, 2017. REUTERS/Guido Bergmann/BPA/Handout via REUTERS The parties are all due to hold high-level meetings on Friday to discuss how to proceed. Sources in the SPD said all options would be discussed – ranging from a re-run of the grand coalition with the conservatives to new elections. Merkel is set to hold a telephone conference with senior party members on Friday to discuss the meeting with Steinmeier but the conservatives do not expect the SPD to agree to official coalition talks until after its party congress next week. Slideshow (3 Images)Almost two-thirds of Germans want the SPD to start talks with the conservatives on forming another coalition of the centre-right and centre-left, an Allensbach poll showed. MINORITY GOVERNMENT? But the atmosphere has been soured by the decision of conservative agriculture minister to back an EU proposal to extend the use of a weedkiller for another five years – a measure opposed by the SPD. In reaction, SPD members have called for compensation and set various policy conditions. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, a conservative, told reporters a stable government was urgently needed to move ahead on security priorities such as hiring more police. Nothing could happen on that front until a budget was agreed. He told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper that the conservatives were trying to form a stable government with the SPD – if the SPD would agree to that, adding: “Only if this attempt fails do we need to think about other steps – not now.” FDP leader Christian Lindner, who walked out of attempts to form a so-called ‘Jamaica’ alliance with Merkel’s conservatives and the Greens, told newspaper Rheinische Post a grand coalition would be “more stable and more advantageous” than a three-way Jamaica tie-up. The CDU’s business wing called on Merkel to “seriously consider” a minority government, warning that another grand coalition would only be possible for the price of “even more unaffordable promises” in social policy.

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Published Date: Dec 01, 2017 03:45 am | Updated Date: Dec 01, 2017 03:45 am

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