Merkel rescued by the opposition as SPD leader ends refusal to enter talks
Angela Merkel appeared to have staged one of the great political escapes yesterday after a rival party agreed to end the crisis in Germany by opening talks on forming a new government.
Martin Schulz, leader of the Social Democrats (SPD), said his party had agreed to end its refusal to enter talks with Ms Merkel after a "dramatic" personal appeal from Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German president.
"We do not have a government crisis, but Germany is in a complicated situation," Mr Schulz said.
"The president made a dramatic appeal to the parties to speak again, because we cannot go straight to new elections... The SPD is aware of its responsibility for Germany and for Europe."
Germany was facing the prospect of new elections after coalition talks between Ms Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and smaller parties collapsed last week.
The SPD, her former coalition partner, will now open talks with Ms Merkel.
Mr Schulz said the party had not decided whether it was ready to enter a new coalition with Ms Merkel, or would only offer to prop up a minority government from the outside.
He pledged that any final decision would be put to the full party membership in a vote.
"If the discussions result in us taking part in a government in any shape or form, the members will vote on it," he said.
Although Mr Schulz painted the move to open talks as a response to Mr Steinmeier's appeal, he was facing the possibility of a leadership challenge over his refusal to open talks with Ms Merkel.
The depth of division in his party was made clear by marathon internal discussions which went on for eight hours and did not end until the early hours of the morning.