Hopes for German ‘Grand Coalition’ survive as SPD approves talks

World Today

Germany’s Social Democrats voted in favor of formal coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc, taking a step toward in forming a new government.

CGTN’s Guy Henderson reports from Bonn.
Follow Guy Henderson on Twitter @GuyHendersonDE

In the end, they were a minority. But only just.

Before the vote, those opposed to another Grand Coalition had made clear they wanted more than what they felt Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives would ever give them.

“The CDU made clear that the results are not negotiable anymore,” SPD member Markus Gottbehüt said. “It´s a waste of time to prolong the talks now.”

The future of Europe motivated most of those in favor, helping French President Emmanuel Macron give reform a Social Democratic flavor.

“Macron made some bold suggestions – Europe is waiting for an answer,” according to Simon Vaut. “And I think it has to be given here today in Bonn.”

This was Angela Merkel’s view too. After all, a no vote could have been a blow to her political future.

The fate of one of the most influential politicians on the world stage could be in the hands of these delegates. They are divided over a vote that is still too close to call, with some arguing four more years of compromise will kill their party, while others believe the alternative is worse.

Before the ballot, party leadership offered a final plea to the disillusioned: this time, it’ll be different.

“In these coalition talks, we have achieved a paradigm shift in the European politics of Germany; away from austerity to a stronger mutual responsibility for our continent,” Social Democrats leader Martin Schultz said. “For me, as a staunch European, that is a massive success.”

That line held the day, with just over half voting in favor of starting talks.

The leadership’s relief may yet be short-lived, however. In Berlin, the Chancellor was quick to suggest no big concessions would be up for grabs.

“The blueprint of exploratory talks form the basis for formal coalition negotiations, and there are of course multiple issues which still need to be clarified in detail,” Merkel said. “That will surely require intensive deliberation.”