Martin Schulz's Social Democrats are negotiating a new "grand coalition" with Merkel's conservatives. He reportedly told SPD colleagues he will seek a ministerial post, despite previously ruling out such a move.
The leader of Germany's center-left Social Democrats (SPD), Martin Schulz, is seeking a ministerial position in coalition talks with Merkel's conservatives, German weekly magazine Der Spiegel reported on Friday.
A senior SPD official told the magazine that Schulz, who has repeatedly said he would not serve in a Merkel-led government, was "resolute" despite inner-party calls for him to stay out of any future government.
What Schulz said previously about grand coalitions and cabinet posts:
- September 11, 2017 (two weeks before the election): "If Mrs. Merkel wants to join my cabinet, she can gladly do so as vice chancellor," after a reporter questioned him about whether he would join a Merkel-led cabinet.
- September 25, 2017 (one day after the election): "I will not join a government under the leadership of Angela Merkel," after a reporter asked if he would rule out serving as a minister under Merkel.
- November 20, 2017 (at an SPD meeting after three-way exploratory talks for a "Jamaica coalition" between the CDU/CSU, the business-friendly Free Democrats and the Green Party failed): "We won't shy away from new elections ... We are not available for a grand coalition."
- January 12, 2017 (after the end of exploratory talks with the CDU/CSU): "We are concentrating on whether we can form a government ... personnel questions will be decided afterwards," during a talk show discussion in which a presenter asked him whether he was still standing by his promise regarding a cabinet post.
What are the 'grand coalition' negotiations?
- Talks began on Friday over a renewal of the "grand coalition" — a government between the SPD and CDU/CSU that has been in place since 2013.
- The negotiations began after delegates at the SPD party convention gave the go-ahead at least to discuss a grand coalition, following brief preliminary discussions with the CDU and CSU.
- SPD members would still have to approve a coalition agreement in a final vote, if the three parties manage to draw one up.
- The CDU/CSU had entered exploratory talks with the FDP and Greens after the election, but they ended after FDP leader Christian Lindner walked out at the end of November — meaning the bloc could no longer command a parliamentary majority.
What others have said about grand coalition talks:
- The head of the CSU parliamentary group, Alexander Dobrindt, told reporters after early meetings on Friday: "It's clear that these are difficult negotiations. We saw that again today. But that was to be expected."
- The head of the SPD parliamentary group, Andrea Nahles, told German public broadcaster ARD on Friday: "We should try to get through negotiations quickly. We in Germany have been waiting long enough for a new government,"
- Asked about the Social Democrat calls to expand Germany's public insurance system, CDU Health Minister Hermann Gröhe said: "I reject burdening people with public health insurance with billions of euros by forcibly merging public and private insurers or through uniform doctors' fees." Gröhe said the CDU would nonetheless consider ways to improve public insurance schemes to get more doctors in rural areas and making it quicker for the publicly insured to benefit from medical innovations.
What happens next?
- A coalition agreement between the SPD and CDU/CSU would allow the grand coalition to continue until the next general election, assuming any alliance then holds, with Angela Merkel likely remaining in office as chancellor.
- Should the talks break down, only two options would remain for Germany: either a minority government — led in all likelihood by the largest bloc in parliament, Merkel's CDU/CSU — or fresh elections. The decision ultimately rests with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, although Merkel has made it clear she does not favor trying to lead a minority government.