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SPD's youth wing rejects coalition deal with Chancellor Merkel's conservatives

The youth wing of Germany's Social Democrats has rejected the party’s coalition agreement with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives. Overall voting results from the party's general membership are several days away.

The Social Democrats (SPD) youth wing voted at a conference in Nuremberg on Saturday to reject the deal that the party's leadership negotiated with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).

The resolution that the youth SPD members passed expressed criticism of the deal, citing in particular the lack of a credible plan to finance investment in the future.

"The results of the (coalition) negotiations don't convince me at all," the newly elected chairperson of the SPD's youth wing, Johanna Uekermann told the delegates prior to the vote. "There are just too many points (in the agreement) that are missing for a really just society," she said, adding that real change was not possible under the agreement with the conservatives.

The national chairman of the party, Sigmar Gabriel, used his speech at the conference to try to sell the coalition deal, which he and other senior SPD members negotiated with the conservatives following the September 22 federal election that saw Chancellor Merkel's CDU/CSU bloc fall just five seats short of a majority.

"This is not a marriage made of love," Gabriel said. "It is the governing majority that is possible and it is a coalition of sober reason," he added, pointing to SPD priorities that were included, including a national general minimum wage.

He also warned against rejecting the deal, saying that there was no alternative given the outcome of the election. He rejected a suggestion from Uekermann that the SPD abandon its coalition agreement with the conservatives and seek to form one with the Greens and the Left party, which together could also form a parliamentary majority.

"With the Left party in its current form you cannot govern reliably," Gabriel said.

Despite the youth wing's rejection of the deal with the conservatives, Uekermann stressed that it should not be interpreted as a condemnation of the party's leadership.

"We don't see a no (to the agreement) as a no for the party executive," she said.

This won't change the fact that many could see Saturday's vote as a setback for Gabriel and the other SPD leaders who negotiated the deal, but it isn't the one that really counts.

Prior to the start of negotiations, Gabriel pledged that any deal would have to be approved by the party's entire membership before it could come into force.

By Friday, about 200,000 of the SPD's 470,000 members had cast their ballots in a postal vote on the agreement. Voting is to conclude this coming Thursday with the final tally to be announced by next Sunday at the latest.

The SPD is the only one of the three would-be coalition partners to put the deal to a vote among the general party membership. The CSU has already approved it, while the CDU is expected to approve it at a so-called "small conference" on Monday.

pfd/se (dpa, Reuters, AFP)