Tue, Dec 03, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Merkel and CDU desperate to keep coalition together


German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a meeting with agriculture and forestry associations at the Chancellery in Berlin yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party told the new leadership of the Social Democrats (SPD) that there would be no renegotiation of the terms of their alliance and that they could quit the governing coalition if they could not accept that.

The SPD on Saturday picked government critics Norbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken to take the party forward over Merkel’s German Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The new leaders said that they would demand policy changes if they are to maintain their support, and that their terms would be set out at a three-day SPD conference starting Friday in Berlin.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, head of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, said that there is no way that they would open up a debate on the coalition deal signed in March last year.

“We’re not a therapy service for the parties in government,” she said in an interview with ZDF television yesterday.

“This new SPD leadership must decide whether they want to stay in this coalition or not,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added. “We made a pledge to the voters. We want to govern on the basis of what was agreed. We are focusing on that and not on the mental state of any coalition partner.”

The rebellion against the SPD establishment pushes Merkel a step closer to the exit after 14 years in power.

It also throws up a potential conflict between the chancellor — eager to see out her final term — and Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is trying to exert her authority as party leader and might be less willing to compromise as she positions herself to succeed Merkel.

The SPD leadership crisis was triggered in June when chairwoman Andrea Nahles resigned after the party was crushed in elections for the European Parliament.

The succession contest reopened a party split between establishment figures and the left, which hoped to rebuild the SPD’s credentials with its working-class base.

In comments after their victory on Saturday, Walter-Borjans said that the party has no intention of abruptly leaving the coalition.

The SPD is more likely to put forward a set of demands, such as abandoning Merkel’s balanced-budget stance and raising Germany’s minimum wage.

He also indicated that Scholz would stay on as the Minister of Finance.

Yesterday, Johannes Kahrs, the SPD’s parliamentary caucus budget spokesman and a party moderate, said that he does not expect the government to collapse.

If a general election is triggered, the party is at risk of finishing in fourth place behind the Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

“Both sides in the coalition know that we have to find some sensible results for this country,” Kahrs said in an interview with DLF radio.

“The voters have the right to expect that this nation is ruled sensibly until September 2021,” he added. “That there is some disagreement over content is completely acceptable.”

Any breakup would likely be a drawn out process. In addition to a straight vote on leaving the coalition, there are to be proposals at the SPD convention setting out conditions for staying, potentially paving the way for prolonged negotiations with the CDU.

Malu Dreyer, who served as an interim SPD leader following the resignation of Nahles, yesterday told ZDF that the coalition agreement contains ample wiggle room to adapt to “changing circumstances” if necessary.

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