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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Sunday, December 17, 2017

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Exploratory coalition talks fail, Merkel’s future questioned

Merkel was forced into negotiations

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BERLIN, Germany - With exploratory coalition talks between Merkel’s conservative bloc, the liberal pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and environmentalist Greens, failing - now, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she would prefer a new election to ruling with a minority.

On Monday night, as talks on forming a three-way coalition failed, Germany’s president told parties they owed it to voters to try to form a government.

According to Merkel, the major obstacle to a three-way deal was immigration.

Merkel was forced into negotiations after bleeding support in the September 24 election to the far right in a backlash at her 2015 decision to let in over 1 million migrants.

The failure of exploratory coalition now raises the prospect of a new election and casts doubt about Merkel’s future

The 63-year-old leader, who has been in power for 12 years, has said that she was skeptical about ruling in a minority government.

In an interview with ARD television, Merkel said, “My point of view is that new elections would be the better path.”

After meeting President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, she said that her plans did not include being chancellor in a minority government.

According to Steinmeier, Germany was facing the worst governing crisis in the 68-year history of its post-World War Two democracy and pressed all parties in parliament “to serve our country” and try to form a government.

Steinmeier’s comments, believed to have been aimed at the FDP and the Social Democrats (SPD), who on Monday ruled out renewing their ‘grand coalition’ with the conservatives.

In a statement, Steinmeier, a former foreign minister, thrust centre-stage after taking on the usually largely ceremonial head of state role in March, said, “Inside our country, but also outside, in particular in our European neighbourhood, there would be concern and a lack of understanding if politicians in the biggest and economically strongest country (in Europe) did not live up to their responsibilities.”

According to a new poll, a new election is desired by half of Germany’s voters.

So far, SPD has stuck to a pledge after heavy losses in the September election not to go back into a Merkel-led broad coalition of centre-left and centre-right.

Merkel has however, urged the SPD to reconsider. 

She said in an interview with ZDF, “I would hope that they consider very intensively if they should take on the responsibility” of governing.

She added she saw no reason to resign and her conservative bloc would enter any new election more unified than before.

She said, “If new elections happened, then ... we have to accept that. I‘m afraid of nothing.”

Meanwhile, business leaders have called for a swift return to talks.

The German leadership, seen as crucial for the European Union, which is grappling with governance reform and Brexit, FDP leader Christian Lindner’s announcement that he was pulling out spooked investors and sent the euro falling in the morning.

Later, both the euro and European shares recovered from early selling and German bond yields steadied near 1-1/2 week lows, as confidence about the outlook for the eurozone economy helped investors brush off worries about the risk of Germany going to the polls again soon.

 

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