Friday 20 September 2019

Germany's parliament speaker urges parties to compromise

German chancellor Angela Merkel attends a parliamentary session in Berlin (Michael Kappeler/dpa via AP)
German chancellor Angela Merkel attends a parliamentary session in Berlin (Michael Kappeler/dpa via AP)
The Reichstag, Germany's parliament, is reflected in a puddle in Berlin (AP)

Germany faces "a test, but not a crisis of the state," the parliament's speaker said as he urged political leaders to show more readiness to compromise after the breakdown of talks to form a new government.

Four weeks of talks on a potential coalition between Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and two smaller parties collapsed on Sunday.

Ms Merkel's partners in the outgoing government, the centre-left Social Democrats, are refusing to join her in a new administration - leaving a new election as the most likely outcome, although there is also the possibility of a minority government.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday called on political leaders to rethink their positions.

He is due to hold meetings on Tuesday with the leaders of the Greens and Free Democrats, the two parties that had been in negotiations with Ms Merkel.

Parliament speaker Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany's longest-serving legislator and a veteran of several coalition governments, added his own appeal as the lower house met for only its second session since the September 24 election.

"We can be of different opinions as to how we should be governed, but it is clear that we must be governed," Mr Schaeuble said.

Parties may decide, after long reflection, that they will not join in a coalition, "but that must be explained logically so the impression doesn't arise that they want to evade responsibility," he added.

"Democracy demands majorities, and our wish for stable order demands sustainable majorities," said Mr Schaeuble, a member of Ms Merkel's Christian Democratic Union. He said that "agreeing by giving ground to each other takes courage".

Mr Steinmeier will have to decide whether to pave the way for a minority government or a new election, since Germany's post-Second World War constitution does not allow parliament to dissolve itself.

Mr Schaeuble, 75, cautioned against talking up the scale of Germany's political problems.

"This is a test, but not a crisis of the state," he said. "The task is big, but it can be solved."


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