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Germany

Direct Stake in Opel Would Be Bad News for Germany, Says Merkel

Chancellor Angela Merkel made resolute use of the word "no" during a closely watched television appearance, stressing that Germany will neither buy a direct stake in the failing carmaker Opel, nor hold early elections.

A fraying German flag in front of an Opel factory

Some see the economic crisis tearing Germany apart at the seams

"We do not have the intention" of taking a direct stake in Opel, Merkel said during an interview on public television Sunday, March 22. She added that Berlin's involvement in the company would "not be good news" for Opel employees.

It was the first time in more than two years that Merkel appeared on a talk-show to explain her policies to millions of viewers. She has, however, used newspaper and radio interviews to defend government policies over the past two weeks.

The chancellor is scheduled to visit an Opel factory in the town of Russelsheim on March 31.

Different forms of aid

Still photo from the tv interview showing Merkel and interviewer Anne Will

Merkel explained government policy in a TV interview on Sunday

Labor Minister Olaf Scholz, a Social Democrat in Merkel's governing coalition, had said the government should consider moving in to help the German carmaker, which is a subsidiary of US auto giant General Motors.

"We shouldn't be afraid of such a decision," he said in an interview published in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. But he added that it "should not be for the long-term."

German authorities have criticized a proposal from GM Europe regarding Opel as too vague and have given themselves several weeks to decide whether to bail out the carmaker, which employs 26,000 people in Germany alone.

Merkel, however, said although the state wouldn't buy shares in Opel, it would support ailing enterprises. "A bridge should be built for every business that has a chance" to succeed, she said.

The back-and-forth over Opel, which said it needs 3.3 billion euros ($4.5 billion) to avoid bankruptcy, comes ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for September.

Coalition steers clear of early elections

CDU and SPD flag in front of the German parliament building

Leaders from the SPD and CDU said they're committed to the grand coalition -- until Sept. 27

Some in Germany, however, would rather see the public headed to the voting box in less than six months. That's a plan both Merkel and the Social Democrats are against.

"I as chancellor will fulfill my obligations in this coalition for the period that we've been elected," Merkel said. "I can only recommend others do the same."

Her Social Democratic coalition partners agreed Germany's largest parties needed to continue working together.

"Until Sept. 27, we need to jointly solve the problems ahead of us this year," deputy SPD leader Andrea Nahles said on German RBB radio on Monday, in reference to the election date.

Opposition members and lobby groups have been calling for the end of the current "grand coalition" of Christian and Social democrats nearly since the day of its inception in 2005,

Recent calls have come from free-market liberal leader Guido Westerwelle as well Christian Social Union leader Horst Seehofer, who called for the SPD to leave government. As head of the Bavarian sister party of the CDU, Seehofer's CSU is a junior member in the coalition.

While political leaders in the CDU and SPD have admitted that the current coalition is not their ideal way to govern, they have consistently refused to hold early elections.

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