Friday 14 December 2018

Rebellion puts Merkel coalition in doubt

Angela Merkel Photo: REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
Angela Merkel Photo: REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Justin Huggler

An agreement that paves the way for Angela Merkel to form a new coalition government in Germany has been cast into doubt by a growing rebellion within the Social Democrat party (SPD).

Ms Merkel, the German chancellor, and Martin Schulz, the SPD leader, sealed a deal on Friday after 24-hour talks to open formal negotiations on renewing their coalition.

But the agreement has to be approved by an SPD congress this Sunday, and there are signs of growing opposition within the party, which suffered heavy losses in September's elections.

"There was a clear vote against both coalition partners," Michael Muller, the SPD mayor of Berlin, told 'Tagesspiegel' newspaper. "The same coalition with the same policy is not a good enough answer to this."

If the SPD votes against joining a coalition, it will leave Ms Merkel facing new elections or trying to form a minority government.

Her agreement with Mr Schulz has already failed its first test, after the SPD regional association in Saxony-Anhalt voted to oppose a new coalition this weekend. The small state only sends seven delegates to the SPD congress out of 600, but the decision has sent jitters through the party.

Mr Schulz initially ruled out renewing the coalition with Ms Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) after September's election results.

But he changed his mind in the face of open rebellion from MPs after Ms Merkel's talks with smaller parties collapsed late last year.

So far, there has only been significant opposition to a new coalition within the Jusos, the SPD youth wing.

But influential party figures are beginning to speak out and accuse Mr Schulz's leadership of failing to win enough concessions from Ms Merkel in last week's talks.

The SPD leadership has deployed its big guns to make the case for a coalition. Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has been sent to the regional associations to urge them to back a deal.

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