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Germany

Leaders of Germany's Social Democrats to recommend exploratory coalition talks

SPD leaders are set to recommend that the party open exploratory talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU about possibly forming a coalition government. Merkel’s party fell just short of a majority in Sunday’s vote.

Challenges ahead for new German government

News agencies on Friday cited unnamed sources from within the leadership of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) who confirmed a story published on the website of the mass-circulation Bild newspaper.

The sources said SPD leaders would make the recommendation at a special party convention of around 200 delegates to be held in Berlin on Friday evening. If the delegates approve the decision, exploratory talks could begin as soon as next week.

However there is considerable weariness among SPD members about joining a so-called “grand coalition” with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU).

One cause for concern among the Social Democrats is that unlike a previous grand coalition under Merkel's leadership from 2005-2009, this would be a very uneven alliance. After the 2005 election, Merkel's conservatives had just four more seats than the SPD, but Sunday's vote gave them 311 seats, compared to just 192 for the Social Democrats.

This could be expected to make it more difficult for the SPD to get some of the ideas in ran its election campaign on into any coalition agreement with the CDU.

This may be one reason the SPD's leaders are said to be considering putting any decision to actually join a coalition to the party membership. The Süddeutsche daily paper reported in its Friday edition that while no final decision on this issue had been made, party chairman Sigmar Gabriel had declared that he was open to the idea.

The 311 seats won on Sunday by the CDU and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), is five seats short of a majority in parliament. This means Chancellor Merkel is in the market for a coalition partner that would give her a stable majority in the Bundestag. The CDU's preferred partners, who were part of Merkel's outgoing government, the liberal Free Democrats, were shut out of the Bundestag after they failed to clear the five-percent hurdle required to send deputies into parliament.

pfd/dr (AFP, dpa)

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