German coalition talks: Martin Schulz to let grassroots decide | News | DW | 24.11.2017
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German coalition talks: Martin Schulz to let grassroots decide

The SPD leader has said he hopes to let all party members decide if the Social Democrats should stay in government. The party is under increasing pressure to help form a government.

  • Martin Schulz has said that he wants normal party members, instead of SPD leadership, to decide if the Social Democrats should be in government for another four years.
  • Leading figures from Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) held overnight talks but it is still unclear whether they will back down from their opposition to a renewed coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU)
  • SPD General Secretary Hubertus Heil said the party would not 'rule itself out' of talks out of respect for the German president, without explaining what the aim of talks would be

Germany's Social Democrats on Friday underlined their willingness to hold talks to solve Germany's ongoing problems forming a new government. 

"The SPD will not rule itself out of talks," said General Secretary Hubertus Heil after eight-hour overnight talks at party headquarters. German Justice Minister Heiko Maas of the SPD added the party "could not behave like a stubborn child."

Later, party leader Martin Schulz said that he wanted normal party members to decide if they wanted the party to be in government again, eschewing control by the party elite.

A growing number of voices in the party are thought to be calling for a third "grand coaltion" with the CDU/CSU since 2005 if all else fails.

Why is the SPD under pressure now? After a poor election result in September,  Schulz called on his party to take up the role of chief opposition. But with the failure of talks between the Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) at the weekend, the political focus has narrowed on the SPD to take some part in government — perhaps by not voting against a conservative-led minority government or by forming another grand coalition.

What happened during the day? Schulz met with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday afternoon. Steinmeier is a former SPD lawmaker and foreign minister. His current duties include the facilitation of a coalition government and he is keen to avoid a fresh election. SPD member and German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel also attended the talks with Steinmeier.

Schulz then headed to SPD headquarters to discuss the options with party heavyweights, including several state premiers. The meeting continued late into the night, with take-away pizza being ordered to help keep the discussions going. Heil said talks were constructive and that the SPD leadership was "close to consensus."

What happens next? The SPD is now mulling whether or not to change their stated course of opposition. The options are:

  • Entering a grand coalition that would have a significantly reduced majority from the previous administration that governed from 2013-2017
  • Supporting a Merkel-led minority government
  • Accepting fresh elections

That decision could be taken by the leadership, by the party conference at the beginning of December, or be put to a vote among grass-roots members.

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SPD-politician Johannes Kahrs: SPD should consider all options

jm/rt (Reuters, dpa)

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