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Coalition vote will make impact beyond Germany's borders, SPD says

Europe
20.01.2018
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Berlin (dpa) - Leading figures in Germany‘s Social Democratic Party (SPD) made last-ditch calls to delegates ahead of Sunday‘s special party congress in Bonn to back reconstituting the "grand coalition" that has ruled the country since 2013.

"The party conference decision is certainly important for Germany, but will have effects way beyond our borders," SPD Vice Chairman Olaf Scholz told dpa, noting that many other European countries were watching events.

"An unambiguous vote from the party conference would boost our position in the coalition negotiations that have yet to begin," Scholz, who serves as Hamburg‘s mayor, said.

Following the September elections where the traditional party of the left saw its support plummet to 20.5 per cent, its worst result since World War II, SPD leader Martin Schulz emphatically rejected renewed participation in a government under Christian Democrat (CDU) Chancellor Angela Merkel.

But Scholz told dpa: "The SPD has to demonstrate anew that it is capable of taking responsibility in sound policies for our country."

The SPD‘s change of heart came after attempts by Merkel to set up a four-way coalition, taking in the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens, failed after the FDP pulled out.

The failed attempt meant the SPD needed to move, Scholz said. "For that reason I am hoping for a clear signal from the Bonn party conference."

SPD leaders met their CDU and CSU counterparts for exploratory talks last week to hammer out a preliminary deal in the face of deep reservations at grass-roots level in the SPD.

In the event the 600 SPD delegates in Bonn reject substantive talks with the conservative parties, new elections and an extended period of political uncertainty loom over Europe‘s largest country.

"No one in the SPD sees the decision whether we should start coalition talks with the CDU and CSU as easy," Scholz said. "But everyone is aware of their responsibility."

Scholz, who was present at the exploratory talks, said the outcome meant genuine improvements for ordinary Germans, including concessions on health insurance, state pensions, payments to parents and easing the lot of the low-paid.

"I believe these should not be left as lines in an exploratory document, but should become concrete policies in our country," he said.

"Without the SPD in government, all of this won‘t happen. And for that reason a yes vote at Sunday‘s party conference is so important."

Merkel‘s CDU, its Bavarian sister-party, the CSU, and the SPD all lost ground in the September elections, prompting soul-searching all round.

The big winner was the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), which went from 4.7 per cent and no seats in parliament in 2013 to 12.6 per cent and 94 seats in the current 709-member Bundestag.

In the event the SPD does go into coalition, the anti-immigration AfD will be the largest opposition party.

 

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