German parties aim to open coalition talks

AAPAP
If three-way party talks are successful, Social Democrat Olaf Scholz will be Germany's new leader.
Camera IconIf three-way party talks are successful, Social Democrat Olaf Scholz will be Germany's new leader. Credit: AP

Three German parties aim to open formal coalition talks after all made gains in last month's election, moving a step closer to a new government that would send outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right bloc into opposition.

The centre-left Social Democrats, the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats on Friday wrapped up just over a week of three-way exploratory talks and agreed they have enough common ground to recommend moving on to full-fledged coalition negotiations.

That still requires approval by a congress of the Greens and by the Free Democrats' leadership.

If the talks are ultimately successful, Social Democrat Olaf Scholz - the finance minister and vice chancellor in the outgoing government - will become Germany's new leader.

Scholz pulled the Social Democrats out of a long poll slump to win Germany's September 26 election by a narrow margin. Merkel's Union bloc finished second, with its worst-ever share of the vote. It is currently in turmoil, focused on digesting its defeat and finding a new leadership.

The three-way coalition now under discussion has never been tried at national level.

The only politically plausible alternatives would be a government led by the Union with the Greens and Free Democrats as junior partners, or a rerun - this time led by Scholz - of Merkel's often bad-tempered "grand coalition" of Germany's traditional big parties.

Merkel, who has led Germany since 2005, announced in 2018 that she wouldn't seek a fifth term.

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