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CDU to hold exploratory talks with both the SPD and the Greens

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats have set a date for their first coalition talks since the September 22 general election. Merkel’s party also plans to talk to the Greens.

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Coalition negotiations have begun

On Monday, the Christian Democrats (CDU) announced that leading members of the party would meet with their Social Democrat (SPD) counterparts in Berlin on Friday afternoon to open exploratory talks. So far, no further meeting has been scheduled and formal negotiations will only start if the two parties find enough common ground to make the possibility of reaching a coalition deal appear likely.

Leading figures from both parties have warned that it will likely take long and tough negotiations for the two sides to reach a coalition deal, if they are successful at all.

"It can be presumed that it will all take a long time and we will wind up with the process of putting together a government in December or January," SPD general secretary Andrea Nahles said on Monday.

The two sides are far apart on a number of issues, with taxation being among the biggest bones of contention. Though the Social Democrats want to raise the tax rate for those in the highest income bracket, the Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) reject this idea outright. In fact, leading members of the CDU-CSU bloc used interviews over the weekend to rule out any compromise on their position.

The Social Democrats, though, aren't the only party that could help deliver the stable parliamentary majority that Merkel has said she needs after her conservatives fell five seats short of achieving that majority on their own.

The CDU's general secretary, Herman Gröhe announced after a meeting of the party's executive on Monday that they also planned to hold parallel exploratory talks with the Greens in the next few days. Some have suggested that the CDU could have an easier time of it with the Greens, as they are much weaker than the Social Democrats, having taken just 8.4 percent of the vote, compared with 25.7 percent for the SPD.

The Greens too have their demands, having also pushed for higher taxes for the rich during their election campaign.

In view of what are expected to be difficult and long negotiations before a new government is formed, on Monday German President Joachim Gauck invited the leaders of each of the major factions, including the Left party, to meet with him separately over the next few days. The president was expected to use the meetings to get the different leaders' assessments of the postelection situation and explore how a political standstill could be avoided.

pfd/mkg (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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