Monday 18 December 2017

Merkel will not change views on EU

Chancellor Angela Merkel talks to supporters at the party headquarters in Berlin (AP)
Chancellor Angela Merkel talks to supporters at the party headquarters in Berlin (AP)
German chancellor Angela Merkel waves to supporters at the Christian Democratic party's headquarter in Berlin (AP)
Chancellor Angela Merkel smiles behind German flags at the party headquarters in Berlin (AP)
Social Democratic top candidate Peer Steinbrueck reacts to the exit polls at the party headquarters in Berlin (AP)
Social Democratic top candidate Peer Steinbrueck said his party did not achieve the result it expected (AP)
Rainer Bruederle of the Free Democratic party FDP speaks after the first exit polls give them just below the minimum to keep their seats (AP)

Newly-elected German chancellor Angela Merkel says she sees no need for a change in policy toward Europe after an election win that was impressive but leaves her needing a new coalition partner.

Mrs Merkel's Union bloc won 41.5% support and finished just short of an absolute parliamentary majority. However, her coalition partner since 2009 crashed out of parliament and she will have to seek a new alliance with centre-left rivals.

Attention abroad is likely to focus on whether there is any change to Mrs Merkel's policy of aiding struggling European countries in exchange for austerity and reforms.

She said she needs "no need for change" from her conservatives' point of view but she will not anticipate the outcome of coalition talks.

Germany has no tradition of minority governments, so she looks likely to end up leading either a "grand coalition" with the centre left Social Democrats of defeated challenger Peer Steinbrueck - reviving the alliance that ran Germany in her first term. Less likely would be a coalition with the environmentalist Greens.

In 2005 it took more than two months after an indecisive election before Mrs Merkel was sworn in as the chancellor of her first "grand coalition." Her coalition partners in the last government, the Free Democrats, won only 4.8% of the vote. They had needed to win 5% to claim seats in parliament, falling short for the first time in Germany's post Second World War history.

Several weeks of negotiations are expected, whether Mrs Merkel forms a coalition with the Social Democrats or with the Greens, who also lean to the left. An alliance with the latter would be particularly complicated - there has only ever been one conservative-Green state government, in liberal Hamburg, and it collapsed. There are wide cultural and economic differences between the two parties.

"If Merkel wants, we can of course have exploratory talks with each other," Green chairwoman Claudia Roth said. But she said it would be difficult - "we are not a party that, because Merkel is missing a few votes, will clean up after a lost coalition partner."

"How are things supposed to go in the right direction with the (conservatives), who really stand for a completely different approach to politics," she said.

The Social Democrats and Greens have been critical of Mrs Merkel's approach to the eurozone debt crisis, though they voted for her policies in parliament. A "grand coalition" might result in a somewhat greater emphasis on bolstering economic growth in Europe over the austerity that Germany has insisted on in exchange for bailing out economically weak countries such as Greece.

Press Association

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