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1ST LEAD Leaders of Germany's SPD step up campaign for coalition with Merkel By Andrew McCathie, dpa

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Berlin (dpa) - Leaders of Germany‘s Social Democrats (SPD) stepped up their campaign on Wednesday for the crisis-hit party to enter into a new coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s conservatives.

The move comes just one day after the SPD revamped its leadership as part of a wider push to reinvigorate the party after it suffered a historic defeat in September‘s national election.

The Social Democrats have in many respects left their mark on the coalition contract, the SPD‘s new acting president Olaf Scholz said in a speech in the southern state of Bavaria.

Scholz comments were part of Germany‘s traditional Ash Wednesday political speeches and came less than a week before the party launches a ballot of its more than 460,000 members on whether to extend for another four years the SPD‘s coalition with Merkel.

Underscoring the opposition in the SPD to signing up for another four years as Merkel‘s junior coalition partner, some younger members of Scholz‘s audience held up posters declaring "NoGroko" - a rallying cry saying "no" to another grand coalition.

However, Scholz told his audience that the German public would not forgive the SPD "if we did not act responsibly."

If the SPD members do not back a new coalition with Merkel in the ballot, which is due to start on February 20 and conclude on March 2, Europe‘s biggest economy could face fresh elections or the prospect of a minority government.

Echoing Scholz‘s comments, SPD Secretary General Lars Klingbeil also told an Ash Wednesday event that "the time for self-pity was over."

Klingbeil said that between 70 and 80 per cent of the coalition agreement had been derived from SPD policy.

"We don‘t have a rightful majority in the German parliament," Klingbeil told his audience.

He said this means that "there is little chance of social democratic policies being introduced" through SPD lawmakers.


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