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09 October 2013

Coalition talks in Germany progress slowly

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Exploratory talks are taking place between the CDU and both the Social Democrats and the Greens. Despite Angela Merkel's urgency to form a new government, talks are expected to go on for many weeks. A grand coalition is the widely expected outcome, favoured by 46 per cent of the German population.

Partially translated from the German

Germany’s Greens will go into their first exploratory talks for a possible "black-green" coalition with Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats on Thursday, reports the Financial Times (subscription required) -  in spite of grave misgivings on the left of the party about such an alliance. Leading officials on both sides insisted in advance that the Thursday talks would be serious, although most political analysts still expect Ms Merkel to opt for a "grand coalition" with the centre-left Social Democratic Party.

Hermann Gröhe, secretary-general of Ms Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said exploratory talks with both the SPD and Greens meant "we are sounding out both sides on an equal basis". Claudia Roth, outgoing co-chairman of the Greens, insisted that "we are going into [the talks] seriously and well-prepared". The Bavaria-based Christian Social Union, sister party of the CDU, is openly sceptical about the idea of such a coalition emerging from the political soundings, preferring the idea of a grand coalition.

Another problem facing a CDU/Greens alliance would be that there are no specifically "black-green" votes in the Bundesrat, the federal chamber of the German parliament where the 16 federal states are represented. The chamber currently has a "red-green" majority of state governments where the SPD and Greens rule together, so any "black-green" coalition in Berlin would still have to negotiate with the SPD on most big items of legislation.

For these complications, Bloomberg reports that the Greens are approaching the exploratory meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel and her bloc looking for an excuse to abandon talks before they’ve begun. With the party leadership in transition, a gulf in policy with Merkel’s side, a membership sceptical of a coalition, and open animosity with Merkel’s Bavarian allies, the Greens may conclude there’s no chance of finding common ground. 

In the Zeit, the newly-elected parlimentary co-leader of the Greens, Anton Hofreiter, is quoted to have set down conditions for a possible coalition with the CDU, such as a consideration of their policies in the environmental, civic rights and immigration/refugee discussions.

Whereas the Zeit also reports Ms Merkel as having said that she wants a clear decision on a future coalition before the first parlimentary session on 22 October, Focus quotes the SPD secretary-general Andrea Nahles as having speculated that the old government might still be in power at Christmas time. The next exploratory meeting with the SDP is scheduled to take place on Monday.

On a technical note, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that in the final official election results, the SPD will gain one more seat in the new parliament than originally calculated after the elections. This seat, however, will be in addition to the 630 seats calculated according to the German electoral law

The Welt reports that were the election to be repeated now, the eurosceptic Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) would gain as much as 6 per cent of the votes and thus be represented in the Bundstag. The Forsa poll also showed that the CDU/CSU would reach an even better result, hypothetically gaining 45 per cent of the votes. The SPD would get 1.7 per cent less support according to this new survey, and both the Left Party as well as the Greens would suffer losses, albeit small losses of under 1 per cent compared to the actual election results. The FDP, which had just missed representation in the Bundestag at the election with 4.8 per cent, is now shown to be supported by only 3 per cent.

In an Emnid poll for TV channel "N24", 79 per cent of respondents said they expected a grand coalition to form. Only 9 per cent of Germans believe in a CDU/Greens coalition. In terms of personal preference, however, only 46 per cent would favour a CDU/CSU/SPD coalition, whereas 22 per cent wish for a CDU/Greens coalition and 25 per cent of repsondents said they favoured new elections. 

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