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1ST LEAD SPD in eastern German state votes against coalition with Merkel By Michael Fischer and Simon Ribnitzky, dpa

Europe
13.01.2018
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Wernigerode, Germany (dpa) - Social Democrats in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt have narrowly rejected the possibility of the centre-left party entering a new coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s conservatives.

The vote Saturday at a state party convention comes a day after the chancellor and the SPD leadership agreed to begin formal coalition talks, which would see the 63-year-old Merkel return to power for a fourth term.

But the deal to resurrect a "grand coalition" between Germany‘s two main parties must still be approved by SPD members at a party congress in Bonn on January 21 before the official talks can begin.

Merkel is aiming to form a new government by April.

Saxony-Anhalt, a state in which the SPD has not traditionally had strong support, will only send seven of the 600 delegates to the Bonn congress. Those seven delegates can vote however they want.

At the party convention on Saturday in Wernigerode, members approved by one vote a proposal by Jusos, the SPD‘s youth wing, that demanded there be no return to a grand coalition.

The SPD has governed with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and her Bavarian-based allies the Christian Social Union (CSU) twice since Merkel became chancellor.

Jusos sees a repeat grand coalition as political suicide for the SPD, which has haemorrhaged support in recent elections.

Germany has been in a state of political limbo since inconclusive elections in September. Merkel had badly needed to reach a deal with the SPD after her failure in November to broker a coalition deal with the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats.

Some SPD members have expressed concerns about provisions in the draft coalition deal with Merkel on issues surrounding the country‘s health insurance scheme as well as tax and labour market policies.

On the highly charged issue of refugees, the parties agreed to limit the number of refugees entering the nation each year to a maximum of 220,000 and place a ceiling on asylum seekers‘ family reunions.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a member of the SPD, on Saturday called the draft deal "a very good result" but said improvements needed to be made during the formal talks.

He also expressed optimism that the federal party congress would vote in favour of the deal. "I have no doubt about that," he said.

 

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