Cen­ter-left party to open talks with Merkel

At is­sue: whether to re­new coali­tion with her con­ser­va­tives

The Dallas Morning News - - Nation & World - Geir Moul­son, The As­so­ci­ated Press

BER­LIN — Ger­many’s cen­ter-left So­cial Democrats agreed Thurs­day to open talks with Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s con­ser­va­tives on whether to re­new their gov­ern­ing coali­tion or at least to sup­port a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment.

Party leader Martin Schulz, Merkel’s de­feated chal­lenger in Ger­many’s Sept. 24 elec­tion, se­cured a party congress’s agree­ment to a mo­tion call­ing for talks on “whether and in what form” the party could sup­port a new gov­ern­ment.

Del­e­gates voted down a call from the party’s youth wing to ex­plic­itly rule out a re­peat of the “grand coali­tion” of Ger­many’s big­gest par­ties, in which the So­cial Democrats have been ju­nior part­ners since 2013.

But the road to a new gov­ern­ment is likely to be lengthy and bumpy. A sev­eral-hour de­bate re­vealed lit­tle en­thu­si­asm for a coali­tion.

Schulz had in­sisted af­ter the So­cial Democrats’ dis­as­trous elec­tion re­sult in Septem­ber that the party would go into op­po­si­tion.

He said he still wouldn’t con­tem­plate join­ing a new coali­tion af­ter Merkel’s talks with two smaller par­ties col­lapsed last month. But Pres­i­dent Frank-wal­ter Stein­meier made clear he doesn’t want a new elec­tion, and Schulz re­versed course.

Schulz told Thurs­day’s congress that the lead­er­ship’s plan for talks, which he hopes to start next week, “takes no op­tion off the ta­ble” and wouldn’t au­to­mat­i­cally lead to a coali­tion.

“We don’t have to gov­ern at any price, but we also shouldn’t want not to gov­ern at any price,” he said. “What is im­por­tant is what we can im­ple­ment.”

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