Two days after the Social Democrats (SPD) agreed to enter exploratory talks with Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), the main bone of contention between the two biggest parties in parliament remained the idea of raising taxes.
While the SDP campaigned on the idea of raising the tax rate for those in the top income bracket, the CDU ruled out any tax hike.
There was speculation after the SPD decided on Friday to open talks with the CDU, possibly as soon as this week, that the conservatives could be moved away from their strict rejection of tax hikes.
On Sunday though, the CDU's parliamentary floor leader reiterated his party's rejection of any tax hikes.
"With us there will be no tax increase," Volker Kauder told ARD public television. He also said that he made this statement in the name of Chancellor Merkel.
The leader of the Bavaria-based Christian Social Union, the sister party of the CDU, made a similar statement.
"The citizens have my word on this," Horst Seehofer said, adding that the very idea that tax increases could be up for discussion in any coalition talks involving his party was "unspeakable" and "redundant."
He also railed against the SPD's plan agreed on Friday to put any coalition agreement with the conservatives to a vote among the party's 470,000 members.
Greens as an alternative
If the CDU/CSU are unable to reach a coalition deal with the SPD, there is also the possibility that the Green Party could help provide the chancellor with the majority she needs in the Bundestag.
The Greens' parliamentary floor leader, Jürgen Trittin used an interview with the newsmagazine Focus to lay out his demands for any coalition deal, including 10 billion euros ($13.5 billion) in new investment in education and the introduction of a general minimum wage. There seems to be little doubt that the education proposal in particular would be impossible to implement without a tax hike.
Speaking to the DPA news agency on Sunday, the CDU's general secretary, Herman Gröhe stressed that the exploratory talks wth the SPD were the party's priority at the moment, although the conservatives were not shutting the door on possible future talks with the Greens.
The one thing all of the parties seem to agree upon is that it will take long and difficult negotiations to achieve a coalition deal.
pfd/rc (dpa, Reuters)