German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives start preparing for formal coalition talks with the Social Democrats (SPD) on Monday, wasting no time after the center-left party narrowly voted to go ahead following months of political deadlock.
At a nail-biter of a party congress, 56 percent of SPD delegates voted to pursue coalition talks with Merkel’s conservative bloc on the basis of a blueprint agreed earlier this month.
That was a narrower margin than many analysts had predicted and could embolden the SPD’s leaders to negotiate harder in talks.
Eyeing a fourth term as chancellor, Merkel wants the SPD to agree to a re-run of the ‘grand coalition’ that has ruled Europe’s economic powerhouse since 2013.
She said she looked forward to intensive talks on forming a stable government and her priorities were preserving Germany’s economic strength and ensuring social justice and security.
The SPD vote will be a relief to investors who worry that policymaking, both at home and in Europe, has ground to a halt.
Merkel, SPD leader Martin Schulz and the leader of Merkel’s Bavarian allies, Horst Seehofer, may meet on Monday and the full talks may start as early as Tuesday or Wednesday.
Seehofer has said he expects a new government to be in place in the first half of March.
Of course, Merkel still has to actually get the SPD to agree to these talks, and they're going to come at quite a cost. But a vote failure Sunday would have meant new elections without a government even being formed, and Merkel would have been done as a result.
Merkel gets one more chance this way, and we'll see if she can take advantage of it.