Triumphant Merkel Starts Tough Task of Seeking Coalition
Berlin – Germany’s Angela Merkel began trying to persuade her centre-left rivals to keep her in power on Monday, after her conservatives notched up their best election result in more than two decades but fell short of an absolute majority. Even the chancellor’s political foes acknowledged she was the big winner of the first German vote since the start of the euro crisis in 2010 thrust the pastor’s daughter from East Germany into the role of Europe’s dominant leader.
But despite leading her conservatives to their best result since 1990, with 41.5 percent of votes putting them five seats short of the first absolute majority in parliament in over half a century, the 59-year-old Merkel had little time to celebrate. “We are, of course, open for talks and I have already had initial contact with the SPD (Social Democratic Party) chairman, who said the SPD must first hold a meeting of its leaders on Friday,” Merkel told a news conference, adding that she did not rule out talks with other potential coalition partners.
Analysts say coalition building could take as long as two months given signs Merkel’s SPD arch-rivals would play hardball over repeating the ‘grand coalition’ she led from 2005-2009. That coalition worked well for Merkel in her first term but cost the SPD millions of leftist votes. “It will be an extremely long road,” said Ralf Stegner, head of the left wing of the SPD which has major reservations about becoming junior partners again to Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and her Bavarian the Christian Social Union (CSU) allies.
The 150-year-old SPD may have finished a poor second with their second-worst post-war result, but they know Merkel has to come knocking after her current centre-right coalition partners, the Free Democrats (FDP), failed to get back into parliament. (Reuters)