Angela Merkel confident in forging coalition government in Germany

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 November, 2017, 2:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 November, 2017, 2:58am

Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed confidence on Friday that three party groups trying to form a new German government can reach a coalition deal, and top leaders plan to meet again on Monday.

With her former coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD), determined to go into opposition, Merkel is pushing for a coalition with the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), after her conservatives bled support to the far right in an election last month.

“I think difficult deliberations lie ahead of us in the coming days,” Merkel told reporters on arrival for a fresh round of exploratory talks on Friday. “But I still think we can tie the ends together if we try and work hard.”

Merkel needs the coalition line-up, which is untested at national level, to work or could see her time in power coming to an end after 12 years.

Failure would likely result in new elections that could see further gains for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which surged into parliament after last month’s vote.

The would-be allies agreed during Friday’s talks on the need to relieve the financial burden on families, increase child care options and combat child poverty, negotiators said.

But they remain at odds about immigration caps, whether to end coal production, how to combat climate change and increasing defence spending, among other issues. The divisive issue of transport was not discussed at all on Friday.

Negotiators agreed to “be nicer to each other”, FDP deputy leader Wolfgang Kubicki told reporters. “I’m willing to try, but everyone has to play along.”

The parties will now spend the weekend identifying their priorities ahead of Monday’s meeting of Merkel and party leaders.

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“We have all the many ingredients on the table. Now we have to combine them all into a tasty dough,” said Michael Kellner, a top Greens negotiator. “We have to avoid putting too much salt in the dough so we can have cookies for the Advent season.”

Fellow Greens negotiator Juergen Trittin struck a less conciliatory tone, telling ARD television that after 10 days of debate on 12 topics the parties still “haven’t even managed to agree on what we disagree about”.

Merkel has said she expects a stable government before Christmas, but senior conservatives close to her say it may take until next year for a new government to form.

Horst Seehofer, head of the conservative Bavarian CSU, said he was encouraged by “very constructive, trustworthy discussions” among leaders of the parties in recent days.

He urged negotiators to stop airing their conflicts in public. “We can hit the reset button and hope that things change in the next few days,” he said.

FDP leader Christian Lindner put the odds on the formation working at 50-50. Greens foreign policy expert Omid Nouripour said the coalition talks might fail altogether.