Merkel to meet with socialist party to possibly form a 'grand coalition'
There is a possible resolution to Germany's political crisis – the worst in several decades. After failing to form a coalition with the right-of-center Free Democrat Party, Chancellor Angela Merkel, leader of the Christian Democrat Union, has agreed to meet with the Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz and Horst Seehofer, the leader of Christian Social Union (CSU), the CDU's Bavarian sister party.
The goal is to create a "grand coalition" of Germany's mainstream parties.
The office of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier confirmed on Friday that talks would be held between the leaders of Germany's main parties. The meeting, likely to take place on Monday or Tuesday, is set to bring together Christian Democrat (CDU) leader Merkel, Social Democrat (SPD) leader Martin Schulz and Horst Seehofer, the leader of Christian Social Union (CSU), the CDU's Bavarian sister party.
Steinmeier's announcement prompted speculation that Germany's two largest parties might be on the brink of forming another "grand coalition" after two months without a government. Schulz later said that he would prefer to leave it to the normal party members to decide whether or not they wanted the SPD to be in power again – part of the SPD's larger bottom-up strategy to reinvent the party after its election trouncing.
The president confirmed that the meeting is due to the break down of preliminary coalition negotiations between the CDU, Green party and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) last week after four weeks of discussion.
After a disappointing result in the September 24 vote, Merkel's CDU was forced to approach the two smaller parties in order to form a majority government.
FDP leader, Christian Lindner, abruptly removed his party from the coalition talks on Sunday because he said it was "better not to govern than to govern wrongly," adding that he did not feel that consensus between the three parties was possible. However, his earlier statements that he saw a "50/50 chance" of coalition talks succeeding, and his suspect timing of a press conference ahead of the last round of preliminary negotiations led many observers to label the move a transparent political gambit.
Merkel later commented that she would rather hold fresh elections than try to form an unstable minority government.
Party Secretary Hubertus Heil said that "the SPD will of course attend any discussions it is invited to" by the president, out of respect for the office. Usually a ceremonial post, the breakdown of coalition negotiations has seen former Foreign Minister Steinmeier break out his diplomatic toolkit once more, as he spent the week holding talks with party leaders in an attempt to build a consensus admist growing voter frustration at two months with a caretaker government.
"Talks don't mean there will automatically be a grand coalition," the Social Democrat leader of Rhineland-Palatinate state, Malu Dreyer, said ahead of the opening of Germanyy's upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat.
Before the election and immediately afterward, the SDP said they would not be part of a coalition government with Merkel. This was a matter of practical politics following the horrendous showing by the socialists in the election.
But Germany has been without a government for two months. People are getting worried, the markets are getting worried, and the politicians don't want to face the prospect of either a minority government or new elections.
This kind of instability is rare for Germany, and the polls say the people would prefer that the socialists and the CDU work together. In a way, Schulz's options have been narrowing the longer Germany goes without a government. He doesn't want to be seen as an obstructionist, which, if worse came to worst, would hurt the party if new elections were held in the spring. So there's an even chance that the socialists will take the safest path and reluctantly enter into a government with Merkel.
It's a remarkable turn of events, considering that Merkel was widely seen as being in trouble last Friday after the breakdown in talks with the Free Democrats. Today, she's on the verge of a success that didn't seem possible just a few short days ago.