Germany in turmoil after talks fail

AFP and AP, BERLIN

Tue, Nov 21, 2017 - Page 1

German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday was left scrambling to drag the nation out of crisis after high-stakes talks to form a new government collapsed, potentially forcing Europe’s top economy into snap elections.

Germany now faces weeks, if not months of paralysis with a lame-duck government that is unlikely to take bold policy action at home or on the European stage.

However, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier yesterday urged the various parties to reconsider their positions and make it possible to form a new government, adding that he would meet with them this week and urged them to rethink.

Merkel had been forced to seek an alliance with an unlikely group of parties after the ballot left her without a majority, but following more than a month of grueling negotiations, the leader of the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), Christian Lindner, walked out of talks overnight, saying there was no “basis of trust” to forge a government with Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union of Germany and Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CDU-CSU) alliance and the Greens.

“It is better not to govern than to govern badly,” Lindner said, adding that the parties did not share “a common vision on modernizing” Germany.

Voicing regret for the FDP’s decision, Merkel vowed to steer Germany through the crisis.

“As chancellor... I will do everything to ensure that this country comes out well through this difficult time,” she said.

News magazine Der Spiegel called the breakdown in negotiations a “catastrophe” for Merkel and said Germany, long seen as an island of stability, was having its “Brexit moment, its [US President Donald] Trump moment.”

The Greens angrily deplored the collapse of the talks, saying they had believed a deal could be done despite the differences and accusing the FDP of negotiating in bad faith.

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed concern about Germany’s political deadlock, saying: “It is not in our interest that the situation becomes tense.”