February 16, 2018 / 3:37 PM / a month ago

Minority government better than SPD alliance - top German conservative argues

BERLIN (Reuters) - An influential member of Angela Merkel’s conservatives on Friday urged the German chancellor to form a minority government instead of a planned alliance with the Social Democrats (SPD), saying the SPD would not be a reliable partner.

Michael Groschek (L to R), Andrea Nahles and Norbert Roemer of Social Democratic Party (SPD) hold a beer cups during the traditional Ash Wednesday party meeting in Schwerte, Germany February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Leon Kuegeler

Merkel last week finalised a four-year government programme after making painful concessions to the SPD to secure a fourth term in office, angering some members of her Christian Democrats (CDU) who say her compromises went too far.

The agreement has also divided the SPD. Its leaders are trying to defuse a crisis in a party that has been diving in opinion polls after a public dispute over ministerial posts cast doubt on whether its members would ratify the coalition deal.

“The disastrous situation gripping the SPD doesn’t provide the necessary basis of trust needed for a coalition government,” said Wolfgang Steiger, general secretary of the CDU’s powerful economic council.

“If the SPD doesn’t calm the waters soon, the conservatives must consider whether a minority government brings more stability to Germany than a grand coalition,” he told the Funke group of regional newspapers.

Merkel had defended concessions that her CDU and their CSU Bavarian allies made to the SPD, including handing over the finance ministry.

She said that Germany would most likely hold a new election if the SPD’s 464,000 members rejected the deal in a postal vote, which starts on Feb. 20. Results will be announced on March 4.


Merkel turned to the SPD after her efforts to secure an alliance with the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) failed in November.

She had to make painful concessions to the SPD, whose leader Martin Schulz reversed a decision to sit in opposition and entered talks with Merkel to pull Germany out of political deadlock after an inconclusive election on Sept. 24.

The CDU’s Steiger said Merkel should not fear a minority government, especially after FDP leader Christian Lindner pledged in an interview published on Friday to support the conservatives in parliament if they decide to govern alone.

Merkel said on Friday during talks with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni that she was hopeful SPD members will ratify the coalition deal.

“I think that after the very detailed and thorough drafting of a coalition agreement, there is a fairly good chance that both the SPD members and the CDU party congress ... give a positive assessment of this coalition agreement,” Merkel said.

“But we must wait for the results,” she added.

A poll published on Friday showed two thirds of SPD supporters back forming a coalition government with Merkel.

Additional reporting by Andreas Kenner; editing by Keith Weir

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